Respond Sensitively to Crying, Tantrums, Strong Emotions, and More
API's Eight Principles of Parenting are recommended companion readings as the foundation and context for all of our research-based resources.
New parents quickly discover that it's not easy to read and respond to subtle and changing non-verbal cues. Crying and tantrums happen and, thankfully, our children don't require perfect parents - they give us endless opportunities to improve.
Comforting our child's distress (and our own) is a critical cornerstone for our child's health and life success. When we repeatedly comfort them, help them calm down and learn to problem-solve, we help them master foundational skills they'll use and build on for many years. These skills are essential for learning, forming positive relationships and managing stress in health-giving ways.
Tips to Respond to Toddler Tantrums and Strong Emotions
- Tantrums are frustration "storms" that overwhelm young children when their few problem-solving and coping skills are simply overwhelmed.
- As frustrating as a child's outbursts may be for parents, they're literally overwhelming for children.
- The parent's role is to recognize the child's frustration and be the calming presence. When it's physically possible, gently hugging and holding the child can help soothe them. When physical touch is not possible, soothing calming words or songs may help lower the distress.
- Children engulfed in a tantrum are not purposefully misbehaving -nor are they able to "listen" or "behave."
- Threats and bribery may quickly quiet the distress, but instead of learning how to manage big feelings, children learn to squash them instead. This can cause behavioral, learning and other problems later on.
- When parents are able to comfort their children and help them recover from big outbursts, children learn that their feelings are manageable and are able to move on and learn healthy and more mature coping strategies.
Free Resources from API's Library
- What does API think of families using "lovies"?
- Read other ways to Respond with Sensitivity on APtly Said (blog)