Tantrums: Helping to calm your child

My three-and-a-half-year-old daughter is having temper tantrums. When she was three, I would not let her have her way and within five minutes she was calm. Now that she's older her tantrums seem more manipulative. She screams, "You hold me and read me books!" Afraid that I am reinforcing the tantrum, I've taken the stance that she must get the book herself and sit on the couch. She will scream and try to fling herself in my arms for 45 minutes. She often cries, "I need help calming down!" Is it always the best thing to ignore temper tantrums?


Three-and-a-half-year-olds often have temper tantrums that are bigger and more difficult to handle than their earlier ones. This can continue until your child turns five. So it is not surprising that what once worked for your daughter is no longer effective.

However, you can find a way to make these tantrums a bit easier on both you and your child. Let's say, for example, that she wants a piece of candy and can't have it. There is no reason to bring another subject like book reading up at this time. It is not relevant, and only adds extra pressure to the situation. In this case, just let her cry it out.

If you listen closely, you will hear a change in the cry. It may still be fierce, but it has that tired sound, as if the child is saying, "Help -- get me out of this!" In your case, it may be when your child says "I need help calming down!" She may indeed need help, although it is terrific that your daughter can actually tell you at her age.

The change in the cry, or those words, are your cue to move in. You can be as comforting as you like. You can get the book yourself and read to her since you haven't given in to the tantrum's request for candy.

Comforting mechanisms only help the situation. Your main goal is not to avoid comfort, but to avoid giving in to your child's tantrum demands. Let the tantrum occur, and come in for the comforting when it sounds as if your daughter is ready to accept it. This may not help the frequency of tantrums, but it will surely help their intensity.

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