October 14, 2022 Healthy Living

Take the edge off tantrums with these 6 tips

As two moms of young children, we have experience working through tantrums. While we are not child or behavior experts, through our own research and practice we’ve discovered some strategies for dealing with these developmentally appropriate meltdowns.

So, the next time your child throws a toy across the room or protests when it’s time to leave the playground, remember that you’re not alone. In fact, a study conducted found that 84 percent of parents reported their children experience tantrums.

Keep reading to see if any of these factors could be triggering your child and take note of our simple tips.*

Tip 1: Try winding down for bedtime a little earlier.

Does your child fight bedtime and then have trouble waking up in the morning? They may not be getting enough sleep which can put your child at a higher risk of acting out and having meltdowns. According to the CDC, toddlers from the ages of one to two should get 11-14 hours of sleep per 24 hours (including naps). Preschool age children, three to five years, should get 10-13 hours per 24 hours (including naps).

Try winding down for the night earlier with some quiet games and reading to help ease the transition of getting into bed for sleep.

Tip 2: Teach your child to take a “no thank you bite” during mealtime.

Does your child eat a healthy, balanced diet full of nutrient-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains? Many children don’t and it could be contributing to your child’s behavior.

Many studies have been conducted to understand the link between nutrition and mental health. It is being found that children who eat more fruits and vegetables are likely to have better mental well-being, compared to those children who skip meals or have a poor diet high in saturated fats, processed foods, and refined carbohydrates.

Is your child a picky eater? Include a fruit, vegetable, or healthy option on their plates at each meal and ask them to take a “no thank you bite.” One bite may be all they need to discover something new they like.  

Tip 3: Give them your undivided attention.

There’s no question that the life of a parent is busy, and sometimes finding a moment to yourself can be hard. But have you ever given thought on how much undivided attention you are setting aside to be completely present with your child? Put your phone away and play or do an activity together that your child enjoys. Even if it’s only for ten minutes a day, one-on-one time together can do wonders. If you have more than one child, make sure you are providing each with their own opportunity for individual time with mom or dad.

Tip 4: Establish a routine for home life.

Unpredictability and uncertain times can throw a child’s brain into fight or flight mode. When this happens, the part of the brain that controls reasoning, quite literally, shuts down. For a child who hasn’t mastered the skills needed to deal with big emotions, this can result in behaviors like hitting, biting, screaming, and crying.

One of the best ways to bring feelings of safety and security to your child’s day is by sticking to a routine at home. Experts agree, children do best when routines are regular, predictable, and consistent. It’s also important that parents and caregivers follow the same schedule, so not to overwhelm or inadvertently confuse a child.

Tip 5: Prep your child for transitions throughout the day.

Children, especially toddlers, want to be “in the know” about what’s coming next. While routine will help, daily transitions can manifest into meltdowns. Transitions include things like stopping play to eat dinner, leaving the park, and going to a new place.

If you notice your child is struggling with transitions, you might want to try prepping them. Prepping can be as simple as a warning, “We have five minutes until dinner, so finish with your blocks. I will remind you when there’s one minute left.”, or more like a narration, “When I pick you up from school, we’ll drive to the dentist, the dentist will count your teeth, and at the end you’ll get a sticker!”. The key to good prep is simple words spoken in a confident, calm voice.

Tip 6: Consider your child’s play and get outside.

Is your toy bin overflowing yet your child seems more interested in playing with the vacuum? Your child might be overwhelmed or even cooped up.

Assess the toy situation throughout your home. Are items age appropriate? Are toys easy for them to access? Are there too many options? Children can easily feel overwhelmed. One strategy to help combat boredom and overstimulation is to rotate toys.

When in doubt, head outdoors! Most children enjoy playing in nature and the benefits to outdoor play abound! Plus, playing outside promotes curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking.

Youth sports, dance, and gymnastics are also great for social and physical play. If you have a dependent involved in one of these activities, you may qualify for a fitness reimbursement.

Looking for added support?

It’s a good idea to discuss your child’s behavior and any concerns you have with their doctor. A virtual or phone visit is a great option for this type of appointment. That way, you’ll have time to prepare questions, think of examples, and can speak with your child’s doctor one-on-one.

To learn more about other ways to help with tantrums, check out Ovia™ Parenting.

This information is not medical advice.

The Ovia Health apps are available at no-cost on the Apple and Android app store. Eligible* CDPHP members also have access to premium features, which can be accessed by selecting that you have Ovia Health as a benefit during signup and entering CDPHP. Learn more about Ovia Health.

*Participating in these services is dependent on plan type and may not apply for self-funded plan members. Log in to your member account to check your eligibility.

Elise Shaver
About the Authors

Elise Shaver joined CDPHP® in February 2021 as a marketing communications coordinator and currently serves as communications specialist. A native of the Capital Region, Elise earned her bachelor’s degree in marketing from Siena College. She brings several years of experience in both the marketing and not-for-profit industry. Elise enjoys the outdoors, gardening, and spending time with her family.

Sarah Palmer

Sarah joined CDPHP® in 2021 as a team engagement and communications specialist. Sarah brings with her ten years of experience in retail and hospitality, with a focus on digital marketing and internal relations. She attended the State University of New York College at Oneonta, where she earned her BS in Communication Studies. Sarah lives in the Capital Region with her husband and two young daughters. She enjoys cooking, DIY projects, family trips to the park, and spending time at her family's camp in the summer.

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