Mini-meltdowns: how to tackle kids’ temper tantrums

Kinderling News & Features

Often the older the child, the bigger the tantrum. Not be confused with the toddler tanty, the small child version has a lot more fuel and firepower. With age comes more language and physicality.

This means meltdowns become quite spectacular, says Denielle Jans, long-time daycare manager with the Benevolent Society.

“We have to remember that when a child is absolutely in the throngs of having a meltdown, they’re telling us very clearly they’re not coping.” 

Listen to Denielle’s interview with Kinderling Conversation:

So what’s the best way to approach these blow-ups? Denielle shares her method for dealing with small child tanties before they detonate.

1. Be consistent and set boundaries

Denielle emphasises that you can’t let them think such unreasonable and sometimes violent behaviour is okay. 

“It’s really important to be consistent, set boundaries, and to let them know that we love them but this particular behaviour is not tolerated, this is not okay, this is not what we do in our family.”

You will have to repeat this idea, because impulse control is still very limited with four and five-year-olds.

“Our little person, even when they’re in the throes of a spectacular moment and that feels like it can consume the entire house, they are very little.”

2. Keep your cool

Flying into a rage yourself will not help the situation.

“They still need for us to be the bigger, wiser, stronger person and step back and keep ourselves together," says Denielle. "And usually our first impulse is probably not the best one, when reacting in the heat of the moment.”

Denielle says to stop, breathe and think about what’s happening here. Then it might be time to implement step number 3. 

3. Take a step back

Once you’re calm and have ensured your child is safe, walk away for a moment. This means you’re not actively engaging, which is what they’re seeking with this behaviour.

According to Denielle, it’s not actually about leaving them all alone, but it’s letting them know that when they’re ready, they can approach you.

"It’s important to say, 'This is really hard for you right now, when you’re ready, I’m right here.' Keeping words short and clear is important when they’re in that moment, as nothing really sinks in. We need to ensure they realise it’s not a connection moment with us, when they’re kicking, screaming and hitting."

Then move yourself away a little bit, meaning you’re still there for them but not engaging in that activity.