Scrapes. Bruises. Scuffs. They’re an inevitable part of growing up. And while they’re no doubt painful for kids as much as they are for parents, they quickly fade.
But boundaries? Reason? Compromise? They can’t be nurtured with a Band-Aid, no matter how much TLC you apply.
But tantrums and hysterics aren’t just frustrating to you as a parent. They can have lasting consequences on developing social relationships with other children, which can often seem like further reason to prolong outbursts and meltdowns. According to a recent survey from the U.S. Census Bureau on children’s health, only 57 percent of parents indicated their children regularly attempted to resolve conflicts with peers, classmates or family members.
Sometimes these outbursts can be signs of more serious mental and emotional disturbances, such as ADHD, anxiety disorder and conduct disorder. But frequently, these flare-ups are examples of a child confronting emotions and cognitive processes they have yet to come to terms with. Emotions and processes they need to come to terms with. Just like you did.
How To Calm Your Kids Down
Unfortunately, there is no magic wand that can wipe away a child’s tantrum. Regulating behavior is a learned process, and one that can only be found through trial and error and sometimes even the limits of your own patience. But it’s not only a necessary process of adjustment, it’s a process that will help your child grow and thrive. Luckily, there are some time honored tips backed as much by behavioral science as they are by time-honored parental advice.
1. Establish a “Chill Out” Zone
This should not be confused with negative reinforcements, such as a “time out spot.” Rather, the “chill out” zone should be linked with calmness and serenity. It should be designed as an area your child can look forward to.
Keep some of their favorite activities on hand. Make it seem like a welcome spot of security and comfort. Doing so not only helps calm your kids down, but helps them associate tranquility with fulfillment and enjoyment.
2. Share A Cup Of Water, Milk Or A Piece Of Fruit
Sharing basic human necessities like food and drink is one of the most easiest ways to communicate with someone. Encouraging your child to do so helps associate communication with reason, honesty and acceptance. It should be as much a part of your “chill out zone” as their favorite activity.
3. Breathe Deeply
This is equally applicable for adults as it is for children. When we’re agitated, our breathing becomes much more shallow and erratic. Oftentimes, it’s as simple as learning to regulate our breathing which can help us learn to think more clearly and rationally.
Our emotions are frequently subject to physical changes as much as they are to emotional changes. Regulate one, and you can learn to regulate the other.
4. Loosen Up And Stretch
The simple act of stretching can do wonders in limbering up tense knots—tense knots which flare up just as much in your child when they’re angry as much as they flare up in you. Basic yoga poses and gymnastic exercises are a good way of smoothing out frustrations, and can help regulate your breathing.
5. Count To 10
Let’s face it. How many times have you as an adult flown off the handle and said something you shouldn’t have? How many times do you think you could have prevented it simply by taking a deep breath and pausing? Time, as the old saying goes, heals all wounds. And some wounds heal quicker. 10 second quicker, to be more precise.
6. Go Outside For A Walk Or A Run
More often than not, aggressive outbursts—even if merely verbal or emotional—can be quelled through the simple act of blowing off steam. And there’s no healthier way to blow off steam than through physical exercise. Doing so not only helps cool off that frustration, it can keep both you and your child physically healthy in the process.
7. Show Your Appreciation
And encourage your child to do so as well. This is one of the most understated aspects of the reasoning process, and establishes a sense of deep empathy. When you tell your child how grateful you are for them in spite of their behavior, they’re just as likely to show or feel the same way towards you. This should be honest, heartfelt and personalized— not just a rote display of half-hearted platitudes.
8. Listen To Soft And Soothing Music
If you’re wondering why some of these suggestions are as applicable to parents as they are to their kids, it’s because you should be learning alongside them. Music is one of the most immediate ways of reaching our emotions; and the more tranquil and personal it is during a tantrum, the better. Encourage them by playing their favorite music, and keep their favorite playlists at the ready.
9. Laughter Is The Best Medicine
Laughter is one of the few things in the world which it’s impossible to be neutral towards—and one of the few things impossible to ignore. Which makes it the perfect antidote to fear and anger. Keeping a steady repertoire of jokes on hand (no matter how corny), or sharing a funny video you found also shows a healthy empathy with your child, and can help reassure them there’s always a smile to every storm.
10. Hug It Out
Even as adults, we need reassurance; that sense of physical affection which lets us know we’re not alone. And your children need it, too. A hug is one of the quickest ways to calm kids down when they’re angry, and one which lets them know they’re still loved no matter what.
At Wee Care Preschool, we know what it’s like to face the terrible twos… and beyond. Our certified staff knows the difference between growing pains and growing up, and work hard to provide a safe and inclusive environment where respect and acceptance are nurtured and encouraged. For more information, please visit Wee Care Preschool.