How To Reduce Tantrums | Give your child a choice and gain back control.

This post will cover everything you need to know about ‘The choice strategy’ so you can start reducing tantrums today. 

The choice strategy will also boost your child’s confidence, problem solving skills, independence and leaving them feeling like a valued part of the family.

But first let me tell you below the image about an experience I had when I was working for a child minder, it’s the first time I remember using the choice strategy and it stopped the tantrum in it’s tracks. 

The Battle Of Wills

I have changed the child’s name for confidentiality reasons so we will call him Alfie in this instance.

We were at a parent and toddler group and it was time to go home. I told Alfie it was time to go so we needed to put his reins on. Cue Alfie throwing himself to the floor screaming in total rage and parents looking at me waiting for my next move. 

“Come on Alfie, we need to put your reins on to keep you safe. Stand up please” Cue even more screaming and resistance. 

At this point we were the focus of all the parents close by, I was only about 18 and I look young for my age so I probably looked like a 12 year old trying to win a battle of wills against a toddler, I looked around for the child minder but she was putting reins on the other children.

So I took a deep breath, sat on the floor next to him and said. “Alfie it is time to go. Would you like to put the reins on or hold my hand?” 

To my total disbelief he stopped screaming. He stood up and said “No reins” so I offered him my hand and said ok then you need to hold my hand so I can keep you safe. 

So he took my hand where we walked to the child minder and the other children.

That moment was incredibly powerful because I had lost control at that point, and I’m not going to lie it was pretty stressful. But by giving up some of my responsibility and giving it to Alfie the tantrum stopped and he was happy enough to hold my hand instead.  

What Choices Can You Give?

Only give options you are happy with. You don’t want to give them a choice and then take it away again because that will almost definitely lead to a tantrum. 

For example if you want to leave the park instead of saying “do you want to go home or stay at the park?” say “It’s time to go home how, do you want to go down the slide or go on the swing before we go?” 

Only give two or three options. To many choices can confuse things and give them to much to think about. I normally use two choices because it’s quicker to think of two choices when I need to!

Adapting Your Environment

Adapt your home to allow for choices like making sure that the books in their room are all bedtime story length or clothes in their wardrobe are appropriate for the weather. 

Again make sure any outcome that happens you are happy with so you don’t have to take back a choice.

What Are The Benefits Long Term?

Builds confidence – They will be proud when it goes right and when it doesn’t it leads to problem solving so they know how to handle bad choices, because we all make them!

Problem solving – We can work with our children to figure out what to do next time, maybe they needed to consider their choices a little better or maybe they will realize that actually having two stories before bed is better than one.

Responsibility – They see their choices first hand playing out in front of them. They will learn by making small choices their actions have an equal reaction.  

They feel in control – we like to know we are heard and we can control what happens to us, our children need the same reinforcement too.

Valued member of family – When we feel valued we work harder and we are happier to comply. When children feel valued they know their voice is being heard and that they matter so are more likely to listen to us when we ask they to do something.

What Are Your Biggest Tantrum Points?

Have a think about where your biggest tantrum areas are. Where can you add in a choice that will possibly limit the upset?

For us it was getting out of the bath, so I started saying “Are you going to push the button with your hand or your foot?”

But yours might be;

meal times
“Are you going to have a bite of potato or broccoli next?”
“would you like ham or cheese in your sandwich?”

“Would you like one or two stories before bed?”
“do you want 3 or 4 goodnight kisses?”

Getting Dressed
“Do you want to put your top or trousers on first?”
“Do you want to wear a dress or top and trouser today?”

Magic Solution

So that’s it simply offer two or three choices. 

I am not going to promise you will never see a tantrum again because tantrums are part of childhood. Young children need to be heard, to have good problem solving skills and confidence in their decision making to avoid tantrums themselves and it takes practice.

But by offering small choices you are allowing them to strengthen them skills while reducing tantrums along the way

And of course there are going to be times where you can’t offer a choice and it will possibly lead to a tantrum but it’s about picking your battles. Right?

If you have made it this far you have earnt my top tip….
It works on partners too!!  

Leave a Reply