Being calm in a storm of screaming is one of the hardest parts of being a parent, but keeping your cool will benefit both you and your children.

“Controlling temper is a skill that children need help learning,” says Jeffrey Rothweiler, PhD, clinical child psychologist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “Acting out is a normal part of development.”

Staying calm and dealing with tantrums in the here-and-now are key in keeping tantrums under control. Dr. Rothweiler recommends using the following approaches to make sure you’re heard loud and clear—without raising your voice.

  • Try a time out, even if you’re out in public. “A short time out may be all that’s needed to get things back on track,” Dr. Rothweiler says. “If the behavior clears up, continue what you’re doing, and if not, return home.”
  • Use specific commands to silence anger. “Too many times, parents think they’re giving a command, but they’re actually requesting something,” Dr. Rothweiler says. “Instead of saying ‘Put the cereal box down, OK?’ just give the command in a clear, moderate tone of voice.”

    Older children and teenagers might question commands, so offer more explanation. For example, “I tripped on your shoes, your mother is coming in with groceries, and I want them up off the floor.”

  • Stress consequences. It’s important to let children know there are consequences to their actions, Dr. Rothweiler says. Punishment could be as simple as denying a child the next trip to the grocery store, which means he can’t pick out his favorite cereal.


Expert Advice