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Life with Baby

5 Ways to Stop a Tantrum

A mum-of-three shares her best non-expert advice

The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and you can bet your last dollar someone in my house is throwing a tantrum. With three children under the age of four, I've learned the hard way how to defuse these toddler bombs. I'm not a professional, but here's what works in our house.

1. Ignore, Ignore, Ignore
First and foremost, I only recommend this method if you've got some time on your hands. If you're running late and need to get your babe in the car, DO NOT TRY THIS. Your toddler said he wanted raisin toast for breakfast and you made him raisin toast and now he's furious and kicking and screaming. This is when you blatantly ignore him. Don't try to calm him down, don't try to explain that raisin toast is bloody delicious. Move on with your morning. Brush your teeth, load the washing machine, and there's a chance that in the meantime he'll get distracted and give up. This tactic works like a charm on my 3- and 4-year-old-after five or ten minutes, they quiet down.

2. Drop Bait
That's right, my sweet, chubby-cheeked 2-year-old boy throws a tantrum that would scare an army general. Angry and loud, his outbursts can last up to 45 minutes. And he often forgets what originally set him off, choosing new things to be furious about along the way. So I try to become engrossed in something he loves. Maybe I sit down at the table and start eating potato chips (his favorite). Or maybe I lay down on the floor and start playing with his beloved trains, even making "choo choo" noises I would typically reserve for well-behaved kids. His desire to join me usually usurps his desire to scream and flail in the corner.

3. Snuggle
I have to resist the urge to reprimand my kids during a tantrum, because I've found that's pretty much like throwing gasoline on a fire. Instead, I loosen my discipline reins and offer up a good ol' fashioned hug. You might get a smack in the face or punch to the gut, but if you hold on long enough, your kid may eventually run out of fight and snuggle you back. (Maybe.)

4. Deep Breaths
My daughter is our oldest, but at 4 she still falls prey to meltdowns. Because she is the most capable communicator in our bunch, I help her calm down by encouraging her to take a few breaths and blow cool air on her face. I let her know I understand she's frustrated, but that her behavior is unacceptable. After an hour or two, I sneak in some solo snuggle time with her to talk about what happened, how it wasn't okay, and how we can avoid it next time.

5. Steal the Spotlight
Immature? Sure. But desperate times call for desperate measures. If I've tried everything and the tantrum still wages on, I'll sit right down wherever I am-on the stairs, in the middle of the kitchen floor-and pretend to cry. Head in my hands, loud fake sobs galore. The sight of Mummy under duress usually snaps my kids into caretaker mode, offering me hugs and kisses to make it better.

Similarly, I've also pretended to get hurt. My kids love nothing more than talking about owies-if I pretend to stub my toe and let off a few gasps, I'm suddenly surrounded by three tiny nurses, none of whom can remember why they were crying, but who all want to make my boo boo better.