Helping Kids Control Their Temper (7 Calm-Down Tips)

Sometimes kids need a dad to put their foot down.

Gently but firmly show them when they cross the line.

I like the quote from Jordan D Peterson: “You should never let your kid do something that makes you like them less.”

However, that often ends with screaming and kicking!

What to do when kids get frustrated with the rules?

First – don’t give up. Kids REALLY need us to have some rules. Healthy boundaries are essential for well-developed children.

They need to know that there ARE rules where we won’t bend.

It’s important for them to learn to respect authorities so they don’t get in trouble with teachers (or the police later in life!)

Here are a few tips on how to help kids calm down.

#1 Listen to Them

Allow them to share their frustrations. Hear them out.

Their emotions matter, so it’s important to validate their feelings. What we don’t always have to agree with is their actions.

Listening to our children helps them learn about healthy conflict resolution and will ultimately strengthen the bond between Dad (or Mom) and the kid.

In our house, we try to follow a simple philosophy: all feelings are acceptable, all behaviors are not.

Unkind or dangerous behaviors are not acceptable – that is a rule we won’t bend.

It’s understandable to be angry that there is no more TV or that their little sister broke his favorite toy – but it is not okay to throw or hit.

#2 Give them Space

Give them some time alone.

It can be hard for older kids and parents to calm down in the same room. It can be a good tool to guide them to their room to blow off some steam.

But remember, yelling at your kid and banishing them to their room will generally backfire.

Even in their anger, they need to know we will not abandon them. We need to be a safe space for our kids.

For toddlers, it’s best to stay in the room with them. Often toddlers need hugs to help them calm down.

Cozy Corner

A cozy corner or calm-down corner can be a helpful space to set up.

This is a little nook in their bedroom that you can encourage them to go to when they need to cool down or even if they are over-stimulated and need alone time.

It is a good idea to role-play or practice going to this corner outside of “angry moments.”

That way, the space is more welcoming rather than being a place of “banishment.”

Pro-Dad Tip: If you don’t have the space for a cozy corner, you can use a special blanket or soft toy for cuddling.

#3 Telling them to “Calm Down” won’t work

There is little more frustrating than being told to calm down or relax when we are angry or grumpy.

In fact, this usually makes us more annoyed!

Telling a worked-up kid to “calm down” invalidates their feelings and will probably escalate things. 

Instead, you can try this:

  1. Observe and name the emotion.
  2. Connect the emotion to the situation.
  3. Validate.

“You are feeling angry because you don’t want to do chores. I understand; sometimes we have to do things we don’t like”.

4. Pause and be there with them. (Though if in an urgent situation, you probably need to fast track this).

5. When they have calmed down, help them along.

“Alright, now let’s try this again.”

Pro-Dad Tip: If your child is physically hurting you or a sibling, you need to gently but firmly tell them you need to remove yourself or the sibling so that no one gets hurt.

#4 Be Gentle yet Firm

The key to being “gentle yet firm” is respect. 

How do I respect my kid?

  • Listen to them and acknowledge their feelings or ideas
  • Communicate clearly with them
  • No name-calling or belittling language
  • No physical aggression

Here are some examples of “gentle yet firm”:

  • “It’s Tom’s turn now. When he is finished, then your turn is coming.”
  • “That is not a kind way of talking. Let’s try again.”
  • “You’re having fun, it’s hard leaving the park. Now it’s time to get in the car.” (You probably need to pick up toddlers if they are having a tantrum).

A good tip I picked up when my boy was a toddler was to get down to his height and put my hand on his shoulder. Look him in the eye and, in a calm tone of voice, give the instruction.

It is much easier for little people to concentrate when we are at their eye level.

The trick with all this is not to give in. You need to stand your ground.

If you struggle with bedtime tantrums, take a look at my blog with 11 tips to overcome bedtime battles.

#5 Teach Relaxation Techniques

Teaching our kids healthy ways to calm down will prepare them well for their teenage and adult lives.

I wish I had known about a lot of these when I was a teenager 😅.

In calm moments, I suggest starting a conversation with your kid about anger. Ask them what makes them angry and how it makes their body feel.

Explain that there are special tricks we can do to help our body and mind calm down so that we don’t hurt others or ourselves.

Then practice the “trick” together.

  • Slow breathing
  • Clench and relax fists
  • Listening to slow music
  • Go outside to lie under a tree
  • Head to the cozy corner

#6 Offer Physical Comfort

Sometimes, our kids need a hug and a cuddle to help them calm down.

I don’t think it’s a good idea to force a hug.

Being forced into affection like this can teach our kids that they are not in control of their own bodies. (Which is definitely something we don’t want to teach accidentally!)

All you need to do is let your boy or girl know that you are there and ready for a hug when they are.

It might mean that you need to sit on the floor in their bedroom until the tantrum is over.

Pro-Dad Tip: If my boy is really angry while we are driving, where it is safe, my wife or I will offer to hold hands with him. This is how we show him comfort and support.

#7 Seek Professional Support

The reality is that parenting is HARD.

And some situations we find ourselves in are beyond what we can cope with. 

If you find yourself drowning in tantrums, rude or aggressive behavior, or you’re unable to control your own temper – it might be a good idea to seek professional support.

These are different types of professionals you can seek out in your area:

  • Family Therapist
  • Play Therapist
  • Clinical or Counseling Psychologist
  • Psychiatrist
  • Social Worker
  • Educational Psychologist

Thanks for reading.

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