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Do you have any tips for helping elementary-aged children with tantrums?
They often stem from not getting what they want or just a general disagreement but can escalate into being out of control with their body, throwing things, etc. It only happens at home, which I know is their “safe space”, but the empathy trick that we used when they were little doesn’t seem to work.
Isolation doesn’t seem to be the way to go. I want my children to learn how to process these emotions, but I cannot tolerate them throwing things or hurting others. Listening to my ‘calm voice’ is the last thing that they want to do at that moment.
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I agree with choosing to ignore a tantrum, and allowing a child time to work through the heat of the moment they are experiencing.
As someone who has dealt with past trauma, which has triggered anger issues through the years, I would take the process one step further.
Once your child has been able to calm down, go somewhere outdoors, preferably by water, and walk your child through the emotions they have experienced. Question them about the way their body felt, if they could feel the parts of their body where they felt tense, and if they could tell they were breathing fast. Other questions to ask can be if they felt their fists clinching, did they feel the need to run or hide, and did they feel themselves getting hot?
These types of questions help a child understand how to be mindful of what their body is telling them. It is a starting process in helping them understand what anger does to their body and how exhausting it is. Once they can better comprehend how anger harms their body, you can then move into explaining ways they can better manage their anger.
Elizabeth Cole has written a book, "I Am Stronger Than Anger" which has a great way of helping kids understand they are bigger than their emotions, and can learn to regulate them. I highly recommend it.
We are dealing with this same issue at present.
Our research has shown the following to help defuse tantrums in older children:
1. Recognize frustration and anger at the onset. Discuss, read books, and role play angry feelings and situations so that your child recognizes what is brewing below the surface before it erupts.
2. Leave the area. As soon as your child feels that he is losing control, teach him to take a walk or go to a quiet area away from others to diffuse.
3. Learn to use words instead of actions when appropriate.
4. Give him privacy to pull himself together.
5. Don't give much attention to tantrums unless an important issue caused the blow-out.
6. Don't try to reason or talk about the tantrum until your child has fully decompressed (usually after an hour).
7. If your child made a mess or broke items, make consequences. Have him pick up, fix or pay for broken items.
8. Resist the temptation to give in if the tantrum results from "I want". You will only reinforce bad behavior.
9. Do talk about this plan with your child so they know the expectations. Kids do well with consistent and organized directives.
This plan is just "in the works" for us, but it is based on research, so it is worth a try.