There are some beautiful days of motherhood I will always remember. And then there’s the memory of my 2 ½-year-old screaming in the hallway, overtired but refusing to settle for a nap. Since I couldn’t come up with a way to get her to stay in her room, I took my one-week-old baby and locked MYSELF in my bedroom. Soon the thrashing toddler fell asleep in a heap at my doorway.

It’s hard to believe my sweet and reasonable now seven-year-old was the same child also responsible for the Great Indoor Playground Meltdown of 2012.

Now that I’m in the tantrum phase again with my third child, here are some ways I diffuse these battles as quickly as possible:

Respect their limits. It’s hard to leave a birthday party early to honor an afternoon naptime. But I’ve learned that tired kids don’t always act sleepy – sometimes they go straight to losing all self-control. Like me when I’m hungry.

But when it does get ugly …

Learn the art of the quick exit. Scoop up that kid and get him home or into the car seat before he gets any more worked up. There is no reasoning during a temper tantrum. There’s no negotiating with a screamer. But you CAN make sure he learns that a tantrum won’t help him get his way.

Use calm words to reassure. “Sorry, Buddy, Mommy is getting you into the stroller because we have to take brother to school. I know you don’t like it, but you’re going to be OK. Then we’re going to come home and play.” It’s not easy to keep a gentle tone while wrangling a flailing kid, but it yields better results than yelling.

Don’t take it personally. It’s emotionally hard when your baby fights you with everything she’s got. It stinks to have to alter plans for a misbehaving child. But it’s part of the job of training young kids. And try not to be embarrassed by those public incidents. If you downplay it, others won’t think it’s a big deal.

Lavish love on them when calm returns. You may be fried, angry and a touch traumatized. But this is your chance to talk out what happened, restore the relationship and remind them that life works better when they’re calm and kind.

Oh, and lavish some love on yourself after a rough parenting day. You deserve it!


Kate Beal is a former news producer raising three kids in the DC area. She prefers soul-baring questions rather than small talk, and she’s perfectly content with the cinnamon rolls made from the can.