Finding ways to calm older kid tantrums can be challenging! I’ve been talking a lot about calm down kits lately and this week I want to address one of the main difficulties with these kits: How to get your kids calm enough to be willing to do a calm down activity.
Of course, the best way to use calm down kits is to deploy them before full-on tantrum mode starts. (I talk more about how to do this in this post here.) But, when you have missed the early warning signs, and your child is crying, screaming, and out of control, what can you do?
5 Creative Ways to Stop Older Kid Tantrums
Here is a brief description of 5 creative strategies that can work in these situations. I will go into more depth on each strategy in the coming posts so keep reading for even more details, ideas, and examples. Make sure you also download this free printable Cheat Sheet that has examples and ideas for all 5 solutions. Sign up below for access to the parenting resource library where you can download your copy!
Calming Technique 1: Older Kid Distraction
Remember when your child was a toddler and how you could distract them so easily to move them past a tantrum? Well, the concept of distraction will still work on elementary aged kids, but you just have to be a little craftier about it.
The best way that I have found to distract my kids is to throw out a question around one of their interests that is pretty out there. For example, my youngest loves animals, so I will ask something like, “Do you know how fast an elephant can run?” Inevitably, he will stop for a moment to think about the question. Once he stops, I often try calming technique #2…
Calming Technique 2: Use Playfulness to Stop Tantrums
Sometimes getting your child to laugh can be a great way to stop a meltdown in its tracks. There are tons of great make you laugh little videos to watch. (My kids love doing the “try not to laugh challenges” on YouTube.) Panda and Dog videos are also a top choice for getting them to laugh.
Having some silly jokes in your back pocket can also be a great parenting tool for getting your kids to calm down. I especially like to use ones that don’t start out sounding like they are going to be a joke. The element of surprise can really help lighten the moment and get your child laughing instead of yelling.
Calming Technique 3: Give Your Child Some Power
Often tantrums, yelling, meltdowns, and the like are power struggles at heart. Elementary-aged kids are in such a unique developmental place. They are wanting a lot more freedom, and their parents are having to navigate how to give them freedom in safe and practical ways.
If you find yourself in the midst of a tantrum with your older kid brought on by a power struggle, find something that your child can have power over. It may be as simple as giving them a choice in the moment – do you want to wear a coat to school today or just your sweater? Or, you may need to find something a little more “full of power” such as taking on a task: Oh, no, I can’t find the car keys, and we need to get going. Do you think you could find them for me? I know you are really good at finding things.
Calming Technique 4: Use Exercise to End Tantrums
For many kids, expending some energy can significantly improve their behavior. I find that if I am willing to do a physical activity with my kids, then they are generally willing to try it, even in the midst of a tantrum. For example, when my oldest gets upset, I will occasionally say something like, “you know, I am feeling pretty frustrated right now, I am going to try to work some of that off by jumping on the trampoline. You are welcome to join me if you like.” (The important part of this is to follow through and go do it.) Even if they don’t join you, the act of bringing that break into the moment will usually work.
Calming Technique 5: Model the Coping Skills You Want to See
This technique is not always a quick fix solution, but over time, it really can stop tantrums and meltdowns. Dealing with big emotions can be hard for everyone, grown-ups included. Older kids, between the ages of 5 – 10 or so are working to learn the skill set to handle big feelings. They need to be taught positive coping strategies and learn how to tell you what they are feeling or struggling with instead of acting out to express emotions.
The best way for them to learn these skills is to watch you model positive communication and calm down techniques for yourself. In the midst of your child’s tantrum, you will start feeling pretty frustrated, angry, and upset yourself. After all, this is generally what your child is aiming for with their behavior. They find it hard to tell you that they are feeling upset, so they create a situation where you are able to feel the same emotions that they are experiencing.
Spend some time thinking through positive ways that you cope with feeling upset and then start modeling those coping skills. For example, taking a time out to calm down is a great way to deal with intense emotions. When you are in the middle of a melt-down, let your child know what you are feeling and that you have decided to take a time out, but that you will be back to talk about this in a few minutes once you feel calmer.
Calming Temper Tantrums
I hope these 5 out of the box ideas help you and your child find calmer moments. Like I mentioned earlier in this post, I am going to write more detailed posts on each of these 5 techniques as these parenting skills are truly some of the most valuable tools you can have when it comes to calming your children down and teaching them healthy, well-regulated coping skills.
If you are looking for additional resources to help your child learn to recognize, manage, and calm their anger, be sure to check out the Brave Guide to Anger.