How To Respond To Tantrums In A Gentle Way

When a behaviour is challenging, like a tantrum, it is easier to respond in a knee-jerk way and retreat into panic mode.

Being an attachment parent is all about responding to your children. The idea is to react sensitively and sympathetically to their many needs. This also applies to those times where their behaviour may be extremely difficult to manage.
It is arguably easier to respond with sympathy when a child is anxious or feeling upset about something. When the behaviour is challenging it is easier to respond in a knee-jerk way and retreat into panic mode.
When your child is having a tantrum it is very upsetting for all involved. It may be impacting other children or family members and you might be feeling completely out of your depth as you try to tackle it.
Tantrums are different for every child. In some cases, they can be silent but deadly. Children may become very quiet and disagreeable while others do the very opposite. For a lot of children, tantrums are very vocal, very physical and actually very scary.
While your child is roaring at the top of their lungs in the midst of a kicking-and-screaming match it is difficult to associate that behaviour as them needing you. But the reality is – they do. Quite often a tantrum is an outburst of emotion when a child cannot process or express their thoughts and feelings properly.
The lines become blurred when the tantrum is a response to them being told that they cannot do something, have something or go somewhere. As parents, we resent when our children respond in this way when their every single request is not met with a smiling yes. Even in these moments, it is important to respond gently and sympathetically – which is absolutely easier said than done.

Responding to a tantrum in a gentle way has so many benefits. The tantrum will more than likely come to an end a lot sooner and it might just positively impact how regularly they happen. When a child feels understood and listened to they have fewer reasons to become frustrated and upset.
Here are some practical tips for those times that responding gently to a tantrum is not an easy thing to do.

1. Remember that our children want to feel validated. Telling them that they are being ridiculous or bold will only add fuel to the fire. Even if the reason for their tantrum IS unreasonable it is important to acknowledge how upset they are feeling.

2. Respond with love and care to the best of your ability. If it helps at all remember that it is very unlikely that your child is enjoying this experience. They’ll be feeling hot, out of breath, panicky and probably full of tears. It might be the most difficult time to approach them with a hug but it will make a big difference.

3. Make eye contact. We know how tempting it is to walk away but it is important to stay close-by and show your child support during their tantrum. Non-threatening eye contact can show your child that you genuinely care.

4. Use supportive language. Your words really matter in these moments. Telling your child that you are “right here” with them and that you love them can help their perspective shift to a more positive one.

5. Listen to what your child has to say. Repeating what they have told you will help them to feel understood. It gives them an opportunity to calm down and reflect on what is happening too.

6. When things calm down try to explore the different solutions. You might offer an alternative or explain to them why you didn’t want them to do what they requested to do. It is more likely to be met with open ears and consideration when calm has started to ensue.

Tracey is a happy mammy to four-year-old Billy. She is a breastfeeder, gentle parent and has recently lost five stone so healthy family eating is her passion! You can find her at


Tracey Quinn

Proud mum of two who got married on Don't Tell The Bride and had an accidental home-birth (loves a good story). She's passionate about breastfeeding, positive thinking & all things cosy.

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