Preventing Tantrums: Set Your Child Up for Success

If you are a parent dealing with frequent tantrums, you are NOT alone.

And while some tantrums are more difficult to manage than others, the best tantrum is the one that never even happens in the first place

In this 3-part series, we will provide you with a set of strategies to help you minimize and prevent tantrums by:

  1. Setting your child up for success 
  2. Teaching communication skills
  3. Providing positive attention 

Part 1: Setting Your Child Up for Success

It’s likely that a lot of the tantrums you are managing show up for one of the following reasons: your child wanted/expected something they now cannot have OR you are asking your child to do something they do not want to do.

These situations are made more problematic when your child doesn’t see them coming.

But if we can provide our children with ways of knowing what to expect from us and their environment, as well as a sense of control over their world, they will be MUCH less likely to engage in tantrums. 

So, what does that look like?

1. Create Routines 

The easiest way to create consistency and predictability for our kids is by following routines.

Some examples of routines:

  • Morning routines
  • After-school routines
  • Bedtime routines
  • Leaving the house routines 

Routines create predictability to the way we do things.

For example, a morning routine might be: Get dressed in your room (clothes are picked out the night before), sit at the table for breakfast with mom, brush your teeth and hair in the bathroom, then put on your shoes by the door. 

To establish a routine, make sure that it stays the same every day, with few exceptions, and create more independence for your child as they are ready.

Watch our video on Creating Routines here. 

2. Make a Schedule

Making a schedule for the day or week also creates predictability, especially when the same things do not happen from one day to the next.

Whereas routines will typically stay consistent from day to day because we don’t often change the way we get ready for school, a schedule will be helpful for the things that DO change from day to day, such as where the child is going after school, who is going to pick them up, etc. 

Schedules can be written down in a simple planner or entered into a shared calendar for older kids. Picture schedules (see example here) will work best with young children.

An example schedule for the day might include: Breakfast- School- Karate class- Grandma’s house for dinner- Home- Bedtime.

This schedule should be reviewed with the child the night before and/or that morning so that they know what to expect and have an opportunity to ask questions or make any requests about the day in advance.

Tip: Older kids may also benefit from having a start and end time for each activity.  

3. Provide Choices

Throughout the day, we can also allow our children a sense of control by giving them choices.

These choices should offer options that we, as the adults, can be happy with and that also allow the child to have some say in the who/when/what/how/where, as appropriate.

For example, if you need to take your child to the grocery store after picking them up from school, and you know your child may be resistant/unhappy about that, you would do the following:

  1. Create a simple schedule in the morning.
  2. Show the child that today’s events are: School – Grocery store – Playtime – Dinner – Bedtime.
  3. Then, when you get to the grocery store, offer them a choice about which cart they would like to ride in/which aisle they would like to start with/which of two cereals they would like to buy, etc. 

You’ll find that this added predictability and control over their day will go a long way.

(Visit our Presenting Choices video for more on this.)

Here’s what we know for sure:

Children are creatures of habit and they thrive when they have consistency and predictability in their lives.

When we can provide them with these basics, we will see more positive behavior and fewer tantrums.

Of course, sleep, hunger and opportunities for play are also important factors that will affect our children’s behavior. So, make sure your routines and schedules account for those needs, too!  

Part 2 of our Preventing Tantrums series is about Teaching Communication Skills. Check out that piece so you can learn more about how your child’s tantrum might actually be an attempt to communicate with you. Because tantrums are often a way for a child to communicate!

Read Part 2: Teaching Communication Skills here