Caring for kids: Tempering a tantrum

April 20, 2023  //  FOUND IN: Updates & Resources

Caring for Kids is a new monthly article series brought to you by the early childhood education experts in the Work-Life Resource Center and Children’s Centers.

Parenting is one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences in life. One of the most trying aspects of parenting is dealing with emotional outbursts, also often referred to as tantrums. It’s important to recognize that tantrums or emotional outbursts are a normal part of a child’s development as they are learning how to express their emotions and assert their independence.

As parents and caregivers, we have the responsibility to support our children’s emotional and cognitive development by creating a safe and supportive environment that fosters their autonomy and self-confidence. However, this can be difficult when faced with a child’s tantrum. When a child expresses their assertiveness in a way that feels defiant, overly emotional, or physically harmful, it can be frustrating and overwhelming for both the child and the adult.

“It’s essential to remain calm and be responsive to the child’s needs by acknowledging their feelings and offering acceptable choices,” says Christine Snyder, director of U-M Child and Family Care and an experienced early childhood educator.  “Children often imitate or mirror the emotions of the adults to whom they are most attached. So if you are calm, it’s more likely that your children will become calmer too.” 

Because young children learn how to manage their emotions by observing others, it’s also crucial to be realistic about our stress management and take breaks when needed. This can help our children learn how to take a break when they need to as well. Parenting can be challenging, but by being mindful of our emotional needs, being attuned to children’s emotional needs, and creating a supportive environment, we can help them grow into confident and resilient individuals.

Parenting is a journey filled with many ups and downs, and tantrums are just one of the many bumps along the way. As parents and caregivers, it’s essential to stay calm, acknowledge our children’s emotions, and offer acceptable choices to help them learn how to express themselves appropriately. Remember that emotional outbursts are developmentally common, and with patience and understanding, we can help our children grow into confident and independent individuals.

Read more about responding to tantrums

This story first appeared in UHR News. Click here to subscribe!