Temper Tantrum Busters

Recently some parents have seemed impressed with my mommy skills. In full disclosure, I’m not a mommy superstar.

But sometimes I have a really stellar mommy moment. The kind that makes other moms (and sometimes dads, but they are harder to impress) exclaim “wow”. Granted, these usually are inspired by sheer desperation or Universal intervention. Sometimes they are stolen from other parents. Either way, here are some of the techniques that help us avoid temper tantrums and other kid-related annoyances.

Yes girls

This is perhaps the most brilliant of the bunch. We took a trip to NYC. The first day was a NIGHTMARE. The girls threw a fit on every block. They said NO to everything. They were disagreeable. We were miserable. Marlee even dumped coffee all over Lila Pearl (it wasn’t malicious but it was frustrating.)

The next day I declared, “today we are going to be yes girls”. I described that everyone had to find ways to say YES all day long. To my astonishment IT WORKED. The girls not only said YES but made it a game.

Sidebar: this would not work on a daily basis. Save it for a trip or special occasion.

Why? Why? Why? Whhhyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?

There is a simple way we get our kids to stop asking, “why”.

We respond, “why not?”

They are either stumped or distracted by this question. Either way, they stop asking why and start asking more productive questions.

Leave with a smile

When Marlee was 3 we couldn’t leave any place without a meltdown.  I tried EVERYTHING to get her to leave without a tantrum including, but not limited to: 5 minute warnings, threats, rewards, punishment.

One day I told her “if you have fun and want to come back please leave with a smile. If you have a big smile on your face we can come back soon.”

To this day she still leaves 90% of places with a big smile and says “Mommy, I’m leaving with a smile so we can come back here soon!”

Sidebar: rewards of equal value work. For example: if you leave this playground with a smile we can go to another playground soon.

Sing the ABCs

I’m not the kind of mom that wants to be involved in every single moment of my kids play time. They need to learn to share, take turns, and cooperate without intervention. But these things don’t come naturally when you are  3 or 5 years old.

To be fair – and uninvolved – in everyone having equal time I tell them to sing their ABCs. When the song is over, it’s time to switch. For example: Marlee jumps on the trampoline. Lila Pearl sings her ABCs. When Lila is done it’s her turn on the trampoline.

Bonus! Someone is always singing and it never hurts to sing your ABCs.

Little litigators

It amazes me that my kids cannot tell time but still negotiate how much time they get. Here’s how it goes down in my house:

Me: we have 10 more minutes


Me: Ok we have 8 minutes

For every complaint they lose 1-2 minutes.

Bonus: they can’t tell time anyway so they have no idea how much time they actually get.

“Ok?” versus “understand?”

I learned the hard way when you punctuate a sentence with “ok?” they can say “NO!” and then what the hell are you supposed to do?

For example:  “Clean up your room, ok sweetie?” is met with a stubborn “NO” and then I am stuck.

I swapped “ok?” with “understand?” as in “do you understand what I am telling you?” When this is met with a resistant “no” I simply restate the request until it’s perfectly clear. Or I ask “what don’t you understand?”

And really? Sometimes they really just didn’t understand what I asked of them. Big time avoidance of misunderstanding and conflict!

Reward cooperation, not competition

I tell the girls they are a team and need to work together. Cooperation earns rewards. Here are a few ways I foster cooperation:

1. Instead of intervening in their squabbles I ask “what’s the solution?” If they can’t come up with a solution I restate the problem, “there are 2 girls and 1 [fill in name of toy no one wanted until someone had it]. What should we do? Everyone come up with an idea”. For more great tips like this one read “Siblings without Rivalry”

2.  The girls race against themselves. If Marlee can run up the stairs in 15 seconds the next day I’ll challenge her to do it in 12 seconds but I won’t tell the girls to race each other.

3. They get rewarded if they clean up together, no matter who made the mess.

Here’s proof that rewarding cooperation can lead to blissful moments:



Admittedly they fought 10 minutes after this picture was taken so maybe we need to subtract a few points from my mommy-greatness-meter.

Good one-liners

I leave you with some great one-liners:

“You can’t be bored unless you’re boring”

“You get what you get an you don’t get upset”

“Fair is not equal. Equal is not fair.”

What works for you?

For goodness sake, I am running out of ideas. Please share what works for you!!!

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3 thoughts on “Temper Tantrum Busters

  1. Janelle Casella says:

    Love the Pinkalicious quote! I’m going to try the “leave with a smile” and “understand?” techniques. Recently Lauren has been having screaming fits and I guide her to go scream outside on the deck rather than in the house. She does – and then she laughs. Brilliant? Absolutely not. But it works!

    • jillshaul says:

      I tried to put Lila Pearl outside during a temper tantrum over the weekend. It worked in that I couldn’t hear her but she didn’t laugh like Lauren. I’ll try it on Marlee.

  2. […] throwing themselves on the ground in rage despite all of my best efforts? And for that I have temper tantrum busters. And […]

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