Hot Topics     Home and Family     Healthy Kids    

Tantrums explained



Tantrums are on the rise, here’s how to deal

Tantrums are on the rise, here’s how to deal


In the four years I worked at a Mt. Tremper preschool, one of my duties was to take a tantruming child between the ages of two and four and sit with them in another room until they calmed down. Of three employees, I was least experienced, yet the director of the school maintained I was best at it.  Apparently, this was because I’d worked in bars in New York City, where I was known for both a good margarita, and an excellent “bedside manner” with unruly drunks who needed to be cut off or escorted out without incident. I applied the same de-escalation techniques to the kids: don’t ask questions, and mirror calmness, not agitation.

In a helpful article for the New York Times, writer Ashley Abramson outlines why those very responses are helpful with child tantrums. The efficiency of “mirroring” behavior – acting calm to influence your child to calm down – is not fully understood, but it is often better than hugging them between two cushions, and definitely better than yelling at them. If you’re not calm, but agitated, Abramson counsels leaving the room until you can chill out, then going back in.

Of mirroring, Dr. Marco Iacoboni, a neuroscientist and professor of psychiatry and bio-behavioral sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles, says, “So your child may not just do what you’re doing, but feel what you’re feeling.” It is what we once called ‘monkey see, monkey do.’

According to neuroscientist R. Douglas Fields, author of Why We Snap: Understanding the Rage Circuit in Your Brain, the physiology of what’s happening in a tantrum can be broken down to “the amygdala, primarily responsible for processing emotions or anger like fear; and the hypothalamus, which in part controls unconscious functions like heart rate or temperature.”

READ MORE: Pandemic heightens kid’s separation anxiety

A child’s amygdala detects a threat and her hypothalamus causes her to snap.

Reasoning with a child in this state is a waste of time. The stress response has effectively shut down the part of the brain – the prefrontal cortex – that will not fully develop until adulthood anyway.

When it’s all going down, Katie Rosanbalm, a senior research scientist at the Duke Center for Child and Family Policy, says, “It’s also important to pair your calmness with warm and empathic cues, which can signal to the amygdala that there’s no danger. The amygdala stops sending out the alarm, which causes the stress response cascade to cease.”

In the calm-down process, focus more on your actions rather than your words: Your child can mirror your emotions just by looking at your nonverbal communication, like your body posture, vocal tone and facial expressions.



Other articles by HVP News Reporters


  • 5 tips to help you land a new job

    A solid interview can help you close the deal

    With so many job openings these days, you may think you’ll have an easy time sliding into a new role. Not so fast. Because of the huge number of options available and plenty of workers contemplating changes, you’re likely to encounter some competition to land the job you want. read more »
  • Healthy habits for your home

    5 tips to help you out

    If you’re like most Americans, health is an important aspect of your resolutions when each new year rolls around. While factors like diet and exercise are keys to healthy living, so are the ways you care for your home and belongings. read more »
  • 5 heart health tips for the holidays

    Keep your family safe during this festive season

    Food, drinks, gifts and time with family make the holidays a merry occasion for people across the country. However, all that celebrating can sometimes become a distraction from maintaining heart health. read more »
  • 10 health resolutions doctors encourage you to make today

    These actions you can take are some of the most important

    The New Year represents a fresh start and is the perfect time to invest in your health. However, you may be unsure what resolutions will have the biggest impact. Doctors say that the easy, tangible actions you take are some of the most important. read more »
  • 4 reasons to consider adopting a pet

    Pets can be a key source of comfort and joy

    More than 23 million American households added a four-legged family member over the last three years, according to data from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Through these trying times, pets have been a key source of comfort and joy – even improving pet parents’ overall wellbeing. read more »
  • Make a difference for children globally this holiday season

    Your gift can make a real impact for a child

    The most meaningful gifts are rarely the ones that can be wrapped and found under a tree. This holiday season, gifts can go beyond just thoughtful presents for family, friends and loved ones and can make real impact for children globally. read more »
  • Must-have tools for entertaining with ease this holiday season

    Having the right tools will set you up for success

    ‘Tis the season for gatherings galore. Whether you’re an all-star entertainer or a first-time host, having the right tools will set you up for success—meaning you can spend less time in the kitchen and more time with loved ones. read more »
  • 5 tips to ace college entry exams

    Prepping for ACT and SAT exams is crucial

    Because most colleges and universities require applicants to submit ACT or SAT results as part of admissions consideration, prepping for the test itself can be a critical component of that process. read more »
  • Fun ways to foster a love of music at an early age

    4 great ways to get your kids interested

    It’s never too early to encourage children to love to make and appreciate music. read more »
  • Festive recipes for hosting an inclusive holiday gathering

    2 delicious recipes for you to try

    Memories made and recipes shared are the trademarks of a successful holiday gathering, and this year, you can host your way to a practically perfect party with delicious dishes that resonate with the flavors of the season. read more »