What To Say To A Child Having A Tantrum According to Experts

If you parent young children, you will be accustomed to their tantrums. Knowing what to do in such circumstances may be difficult.

A Child’s Tantrum

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Children throw tantrums or fits of bad temper if they need your attention, want something such as a treat or toy, or want to avoid doing something like house chores. They may be frustrated, tired, or just want your attention.

How you manage the tantrums will determine your child’s reactions in future situations.

Things To Say To Stop A Child’s Tantrum

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Using different phrases, here’s what to say to a child having a tantrum, according to experts:

1. I Understand You’re Upset

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“When a child begins to show signs of frustration or anger, calmly say, ‘I understand you’re upset,'” educator and Score Beyond founder Carlos Eduardo suggests.

1. I Understand You’re Upset

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“This validates their feelings and opens the door for further dialogue. It shows empathy and helps the child feel heard, often diffusing the tantrum before it escalates.”

“This approach addresses the immediate situation and fosters emotional intelligence and healthier communication skills in the long run,” he added.

2. I Know This Is Hard, but We Need to Behave Properly

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“Maintaining a composed demeanor and saying, ‘I know this is hard, but we need to behave properly,’ or ‘Let’s take a few deep breaths, and then we can discuss what you need,’ can be beneficial in stopping a child’s tantrum,” says Max Riv, a clinical psychologist and co-founder of Love Discovery Institute.

2. I Know This Is Hard, but We Need to Behave Properly

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“It’s equally important to set clear limits and enforce consequences, helping children to understand the implications of their actions and learn acceptable behavior boundaries.”

3. You’re So Frustrated

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“Name your child’s feelings when they are upset. For example, ‘You’re so frustrated. The block tower fell, and you’re feeling very frustrated by that,'” Kelsey Waddell, a parent, former teacher, and publisher of Stroller Envy, remarks.

3. You’re So Frustrated

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“The goal is to help them develop the language to express their feelings without tantrums. It’s not a magic bullet—just like with everything else we teach our kids, it takes time for little ones to learn this skill.”

4. I’m Here for You

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“To settle a child down during a temper tantrum, you can say, ‘I’m here for you,'” Babrah Tavaziva, parenting expert and founder of Virtual Parenting Hub, advises.

4. I’m Here for You

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“With that, they’ll know you’re there for them, paying attention, and ready to help if you say these four simple words,” she added.

“This phrase might make them feel safer, which could make the temper tantrum less intense and last shorter.”

5. I See That You’re Upset, and It’s Okay to Feel That Way

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One effective strategy to end a child’s tantrum is to use empathetic language. In practice, our tone and emotion are as important as the words we say.

“I’d first suggest getting down to the child’s level and saying, ‘I see that you’re upset, and it’s okay to feel that way,”’ Bayu Prihandito, a psychology expert and CEO of Life Architecture, recommends.

5. I See That You’re Upset, and It’s Okay to Feel That Way

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“This phrase acknowledges the child’s emotions and validates their feelings without any judgment. It’s a bridge to communication, opening a door for the child to express themselves with honesty and for the adult to genuinely listen and understand their perspective,” he added.

6. You’re Really Unhappy

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“If your child is throwing a tantrum, you can stop them with the phrase, ‘You’re really unhappy,'” Dympna Kennedy, a parent educator and founder of Creating Balance, suggests. “Then pause or sigh.”

7. Tell Me What’s Upsetting You

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“Addressing a child’s tantrum effectively requires understanding, patience, and the right choice of words,” Iesha Mulla, a parenting expert and co-publisher of Parental Questions, reveals.

“The phrase, ‘Tell me what’s upsetting you,’ is an excellent example of how to approach such situations,” she added.

8. You’re So Angry We Have to Brush Our Teeth

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“Suppose the child is angry about a transition after playing with her favorite toy. The best thing to say is, ‘You’re so angry we have to brush our teeth. You really wanted to keep playing with your favorite toy,'” according to psychotherapist and Calm Science founder Julia Catlin.

8. You’re So Angry We Have to Brush Our Teeth

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“The most important thing is for the child to feel safe and loved before trying to reason with her.”

“When she is calm and feels safe and loved, then we can say something like, ‘We still have to brush our teeth, but we can play with your toy again later,'” she added.

9. I’m Not Always in the Mood for a Healthy Dinner Either

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“You can say something like, ‘I’m not always in the mood for a healthy dinner either,'” Orlesa Poole, a psychotherapist and owner of Managing Motherhood, points out.

“If it’s done well, that can immediately calm a tantrum in a way that’s pretty amazing.”

10. Can You Tell Me What’s Bothering You?

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“To defuse a child’s tantrum, you can use a phrase like, ‘Can you tell me what’s bothering you?'” parenting success coach and founder of Sapna Rad Coaching Sapna Radhakrishnan believes.

10. Can You Tell Me What’s Bothering You?

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“Offer choices with, ‘Would you like a hug or some space?’ and validate their feelings with, ‘It’s okay to feel angry, but we can find a solution.’ Connection and empathy are keys to effective communication.”

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Key Takeaways

happy child with parent

While there’s a lot of what to say to a child having a tantrum, some of these few calm and reassuring phrases can really be effective in achieving the desired effects if used correctly.

This article was produced by TPR Teaching.

Caitriona Maria is an education writer and founder of TPR Teaching, crafting inspiring pieces that promote the importance of developing new skills. For 7 years, she has been committed to providing students with the best learning opportunities possible, both domestically and abroad. Dedicated to unlocking students' potential, Caitriona has taught English in several countries and continues to explore new cultures through her travels.

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