Teaching Kids to Outgrow Temper Tantrums

Overcoming temper tantrums is doable, as long as you know a few secrets about how to discourage bad behavior subtly and effectively.
temper tantrums

Teaching Kids to Outgrow Temper Tantrums

“Don’t do that!” “Stop hitting your sister!” “You’re going to be in big trouble if you do that again!”

Does any of that sound familiar? If you’re a parent, then your voice just may be hoarse and raw from repeating those lines ad nauseam. Why do kids continue to ignore us when they’re acting out? More importantly, how can you nip this kind of behavior in the bud for good by teaching kids the right way to act?

Learning how to handle a temper tantrum can feel impossible, but it’s definitely doable—as long as you know a few secrets about how to discourage bad behavior subtly and effectively. 

Teaching kids vs. inciting temper tantrums

1. Model behaviors you want to see 

Kids are incredibly perceptive and will pick up on the subtle cues and behaviors you model as a parent. If you want your kids to use respectful language, for example, make sure you're doing the same. The message you send through your own actions will stick with them.

Parents are often not aware of the behaviors they are modeling and even unconsciously model unwanted behaviors. Start to pay attention: what lessons might you be indirectly teaching your kids? Are these the lessons you want them to learn?

2. Use positive reinforcement

One of the most powerful tools for coaching good behavior is positive reinforcement. When you see your child doing something admirable, point it out and praise them for it. "I really liked how you shared your toys with your sister just now." This reinforcement will make them want to repeat that good behavior.

Some positive reinforcement statements you can make to your kids include:

  • I’m so proud of how mature you’re acting today.
  • You’re being such a great brother to your sister right now.
  • Thank you for helping me by picking up your toys. 
  • You finished all your chores! That’s amazing. 

3. “Walk away” if you need to

Sometimes the healthiest thing is to disengage from a bad situation and come back to it later when feelings have calmed down—it’s a tactic that works in adult conflicts, but it’s also handy with kids. 

When a temper tantrum is underway, you can simply say, "I'm going to give you some time and space, and we'll talk again in a little bit when we're all feeling better." Walking away shows your kids that it's okay to take a break instead of escalating conflicts. It also shows them that when they’re acting out, you’re not going to give them undue attention. 

4. Redirect instead of reprimand 

Instead of telling kids to "Stop whining!", try rephrasing it to something like: "Use your regular voice and tell me what you need." Give them an opportunity to correct their behavior themselves. You’ll find kids will pick up on this quickly if you give them the tools—they just need a guide to show them what the alternatives are, and how they can get it right. 

Focus on what you want, not on what you don’t want.

How to handle a temper tantrum

Approaching kids differently by modeling positive behavior takes patience, but it pays off in kids who are more self-directed and intrinsically inclined to make good choices. Being clear about the behaviors you want to see, and coaching kids towards those positive outcomes, is more effective than constantly reprimanding them for what they're doing wrong. With compassion and consistency, you can be their guide towards becoming caring, respectful individuals.

Of course, parenting isn’t always as easy as it looks on paper. If you need some backup, we’re here to help. 

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