Diffuse a Tantrum in 4 Easy Steps

Cynthia Dermody

I missed this episode of Dr. Phil -- thanks to tatar for pointing it out in Journals -- and am definitely going to try this diffusion technique by Dr. Harvey Karp (The Happiest Toddler on the Block fame) the next time my toddler has a meltdown. By my predictions, that should be in another 15 minutes or so, since it's been 15 minutes since the last one.

Karp explains to Dr. Phil in greater detail why this method works so well, but here's a rundown of his advice:

The next time your toddler throws a tantrum,

1. Tell her you get her message first. Say she's freaking out because she wants to wear her Dora pajamas, which are in the wash. The logical response from Mom would be: "You can't wear those because they are in the wash. So be a good girl and put these on instead."

Instead, repeat your child's message back to them in the most positive, energetic manner you can, "You want to wear your Dora pajamas! You want to wear your Dora pajamas! You love Dora!"

2. After they've heard you acknowledge them loud and clear, subtly slip your own explanation or message, but keep your phrases short, or toddlers will tune you out.

3. Assume a loving and welcoming body language. So don't point or wave or scowl. The more upset you get, the more your toddler goes down the "prehistoric" elevator and acts like a little cave person.

4. If she continues to whine and scream, just repeat her message again: "You're mad, you're so mad and you're going to cry! I'm going to come back and check on you in a little while."

Try this, too, and let's report back to each other here on whether it really works!

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