how to deescalate a tantrum.


Jake, the girls, and I drove to Michigan last week, and about three hours into our drive home, I lost it.

Oh, you thought this was going to be about how to reduce toddler tantrums? Sorry, I haven’t figured that one out yet. I only know how to deescalate myself.

Now, our girls are champion travelers for the most part, but for whatever reason, last weekend they were especially owly. They’d yell for a book only to throw the book on the ground. They’d yell for their water only to throw the water the ground. Eventually, they were just yelling to yell, and, I’m not proud of it, but they broke me.

Luckily, when Jake and I are together, it seems like at least one of us has it together when the other hits a breaking point, so as any good parent would do, he lied and told the girls I was asleep, so I could chill myself out.

It always gives me a little perspective and grace when I realize that sometimes I just want to throw a tantrum too.

I was thinking about it today, and I realized that tantrums are almost always the result of a lack of control: a kid trying desperately to assert herself and a parent realizing she, in fact, has no ultimate control over said kid’s choices.

I can control my own responses though. I don’t always (see: usually don’t) do this well, but today I have been trying especially hard to breathe in some reminders so as to keep my cool.


She doesn’t fully understand emotions yet. It always helps me to remember that I literally know my kids better than they know themselves. This won’t always be the case, I know, but for now, I am able to put words they don’t even know to the feelings they don’t even know they are expressing. It helps me to remember that sometimes tantrums come simply because they don’t know the words to say.

She’s not actively trying to destroy you. Right? Please tell me this is true.

She’s watching you. This is the one that usually stops me in my tracks, and I see it more now that Lily periodically tries to calm Norah down amidst her own fits of wild rage. Sometimes, she will calmly say, “Shhhh, Norah. It’s okay.” Other times, her voice rises with frustrated emotion. Both responses could have equally been learned from me (although the latter often seems more likely).

I am the dependent variable. The control factor in each thrown tantrum around here. I can coach and I can teach, but I am only ultimately able to control myself and my own responses. At least, If I choose to.

I stumbled into James today (a remarkable “coincidence”) and have now added a necessary new mantra to my daily interactions with the girls: Quick to hear. Slow to speak. Slow to become angry.Don't complicate your mind..jpg

If I can breathe those phrases in each time I feel my body temperature rising, then maybe, just maybe I can set an example worth emulating for my girls. If I can choose to respond well in my heightened states of emotions, then maybe they will start to respond similarly in theirs.

And then I suppose I’ll be ready to write my next post: How to Eliminate Toddler Tantrums Altogether.

[insert all the laughing emojis]

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