When young children get angry or frustrated, it can be difficult for moms and dads to know what to do. Often, parents feel helpless and look longingly at postcards promoting exotic locales. They may even question their ability to parent in the first place. So, stop right there. Don’t get stuck overthinking how to respond to your child in the middle of a temper tantrum. It’s not about saying the right thing at the right time, it is about approaching these unpleasant situations with the right mind-set. Here are some strategies to help you and your child work through some of those crazy, hair-pulling moments while keeping yourself sane throughout the process.

Stay Calm

The least productive response a parent can have when their child is upset is to react emotionally. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that your child’s outburst is about them trying to unsuccessfully communicate something to you. Remember: what they do is not as important as why they do it.

Be the Safe Place

As you interact with your child, it is important to avoid placing blame or feeling shame. Young children need someone they can feel safe with while they explore their emotions – even if their stormy tirades are embarrassing in public. This is not possible if they need to prove their feelings are genuine. Your objectivity and neutrality will help your child self-regulate much faster than if you respond in a negative manner.

Talk it Through

Keep in mind that young children are still developing their command of language. Because of this, they often struggle to verbalize what they are feeling and thinking, so they express themselves in other ways. When your child becomes upset, they will calm down faster if you can help put their feelings into words. For example, you could say something like, “I see that you’re angry right now. You wanted to stay longer at the store. We can come back next week on a day we can stay longer.” Remember, you are trying to put their thoughts into words and validate their feelings.

Nix the Perfect Parenting Ideal

When talking to your child, don’t get hung up on saying things exactly right or you may lose the opportunity to get your message across. So what if you take a guess at how they are feeling and get it wrong? Believe me, they will let you know. Plus, this teaches them that it’s okay to dissect and explore an issue. This is a learning process and you are helping to empower them to open up and speak for themselves.

Remember that you don’t need to be a perfect parent to be a good parent. As long as you are focused on encouraging your children to become healthy, independent individuals, you will continue to improve your skills as a good parent.

Seek Professional Help

If you are concerned about your child’s behavior problems, don’t hesitate to seek treatment. If there aren’t any serious problems, you can still talk about alternative discipline techniques. And, if there are some issues, you can start proactively addressing them. A good mental health professional can give your child a comprehensive evaluation based on a wide range of factors. This information will be critical in helping the professional reach a diagnosis so that a child receives the appropriate treatment and gets him on the path of stability.

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