I’ve been a nanny for over 18 years. These are my top 3 fail-safe techniques for dealing with tantrums.

  • I’ve worked as a nanny for 18 years and have learned ways to deal with tantrums. 
  • Redirecting attention to something else once a tantrum starts helps end them quickly. 
  • Stay calm and tell children to follow your lead in breathing and counting to 10. 

No parent will be surprised to hear me say that in my 18 years of working as a professional nanny, I have witnessed a lot of tantrums

But I’ve also learned that while outbursts may be inevitable, having them escalate and result in stress and anger for everyone certainly isn’t.

Over the years, I’ve learned some fail-safe techniques to cope with screaming fits or even avoid them altogether.

Learn your child’s ‘comfort language’

When children are deeply frustrated or struggling with other big emotions, it’s really important that we communicate love or comfort to them. But not all children want to be comforted in the same way. Some might desperately need a good cuddle, while others who are in the midst of a tantrum might not want to be touched at all.

The key is to understand what I call your child’s “comfort language.” Drawing from the idea of the five love languages, these come in different forms, such as words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, or gift-giving. Identifying which response best helps soothe your child can be a real game changer, as parents will be able to instantly comfort them in a way they understand.

I once looked after a little boy who absolutely loved to play with Legos, but when it didn’t go right, he would get incredibly angry and frustrated. Being positive and encouraging him to try again didn’t work. I quickly figured out his comfort language was physical touch. When I put my hands on his shoulders and said something like, “I understand you’re trying so hard, you’ve done a really good job, would you like me to help you now?” I could feel the tension just leaving his body — it was clear he found it grounding and reassuring. 

To figure out your child’s comfort language, try comforting them in different ways. The best way to learn is through a trial-and-error approach.

Redirection and autonomy

You can see a tantrum brewing a mile off — the huffing and puffing, the tensing of their body, the red scrunched-up face. Being able to stop things from escalating before a tantrum has even started is the best outcome, but it has to be handled delicately.

My favorite technique is redirection, which simply involves shifting their attention to another activity. It’s a distraction strategy — the idea is that they will get so absorbed, they will forget whatever it was that was upsetting them.

The best way to do this is by offering the child choices, which gives them a sense of autonomy and empowerment and makes it less likely they will get frustrated and head toward a tantrum again. However, only ever give two options — “we can either bake cakes, or we can do some races in the garden” — to avoid overwhelming them.

One to 10, breathe, and zen

But sometimes before you know it, the child is having a full-blown tantrum and the window for redirection and reasoning is gone. 

As understandable as it is, getting angry and frustrated yourself is the worst thing you can do. Shouting or telling them off will only escalate the situation.

Managing your emotions and remaining as calm as possible, on the other hand, will change the environment. Children are eminently adaptable and by showing a different behavior to the one they are displaying, you’re showing there is a different option for them, too.

Next, get them to model your behavior, by asking them to join you in slowly counting to 10 or reciting the alphabet — taking big, deep breaths between each number or letter. Remember, they might be ranting and raving, but you are calm: slowly counting and breathing in and out.

Often, children will join in at some stage, or sometimes they will clamber onto my lap for a hug. Either way, by taking control of the mood, you’ll have succeeded in calming them down.

Keeping calm also shows the child they’re not doing anything wrong by getting upset, they’re simply struggling with a big emotion that they don’t know how to handle yet. 

Nanny Sharz is an experienced nanny, parent coach and childcare expert, and an ambassador for Nannytax, the payroll provider and nanny employment experts.

This post was originally published on Insider

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