6 Steps I took to talk my 4-year-old Out of a Temper Tantrum

Marie is 4 years old.

She sometimes doesn’t want to do things that she needs to do, like eat her food.


girl upside down on a swing

Just last week, when I told her that I’d made some chicken and rice for Lunch, she fell on the floor screaming and crying. She didn’t want chicken and rice. She yelled out, “I want Starbursts for Lunch!”
Of course, I was not going to feed her candy for lunch especially now since if I did, I would be rewarding her temper tantrum.
I knew what was coming… I was going to have to be patient with her, stand my ground and either talk her into eating her chicken and rice or just not let her eat until dinner… Yes, I am one of those mean moms that don’t give in when my child cries.
1. I ask my child why she’s crying. I ask her what she wants, not so I can know. I already knew the answer: She is tired and she wants candy. That is the real reason, but I want her to think about the reason behind her tears. She gives me some sort of answer, which changes throughout the conversation. It starts with wanting to eat Starbursts, then, after I turn on my camera and start filming, she changes to wanting crackers then she wants a sandwich. When we get to the sandwich part, I know she is just testing me. Since a sandwich is a normal lunch food I know she is just trying to see if I will give in and change her lunch from chicken and rice to a sandwich. Nope! This mama doesn’t budge. I remind her what I want her to do, in different words. (eat Lunch) (eat chicken and rice)
2. I give her reasons why she should do as I say and just see if I can convince her that it is what she really wants/needs. I remind her that for her birthday meal just the day before she asked for chicken and rice. I know she likes it. Actually, it is one of her favorite meals, so the fact that she says she won’t eat it makes me upset. I know I am not trying to get her to eat something she doesn’t like.
3. Ask her to make the choice. This is a good reminder that your child is in control and can choose. I ask her “What do you think the right decision would be right now?” I know she knows. She isn’t two years old; she’s four years old. Most of the time, when I ask this question, I don’t get the right answer. But what I like about this kind of question, is that it makes her think. If she even thinks about it, then I have helped her learn the first step in decision making.
4. Repeat the steps 1 and 2. I have to do this a couple times, to try and see if I can get some reasonable answers out of her. This is where my patience is truly tested. If there is a time that I think I may be able to reason with her, then I move on to the next step
5. Give the ultimatum. This usually will spark up more tears, but it’s essential that the child knows that you mean what you say. I tell my daughter, “I am not going to make you a different lunch than everyone else, just cause you’re crying.” This is where we as parents say: If you don’t stop crying….and then fill in the blank. I choose to say that she won’t get lunch and will be very hungry until dinner time. I am ready to stand by what I say, even if it means dealing with a crying four-year-old. I’d rather deal with her now, than when she is a teenager who’s used to getting her way by getting mad. Now, just a warning, choose your words carefully. It’s important not to back down or give in. If I had just let my daughter have crackers or a sandwich, I’d be teaching her that she can get what she wants by throwing a fit.
6. Make it a WIN WIN for the both of you. This is when I tell my daughter, “If you come and eat a little chicken and rice, you can have crackers and chocolate milk after you’re done.” Be careful how you word this next sentence. Make sure you end it on a positive note. If I would have said the sentence this way, “You get crackers after you eat your chicken and rice or else you are in trouble.” I may have gotten a different response from my daughter. I also added a new positive aspect for her making the right choice. She gets to have chocolate milk! This is new and happy and may help her change her attitude.
Now, of course, there is no guaranty that your child or any child for that matter will make the right choice just because of this type of conversation. They may get mad all over again, and then you will have to stand by your ultimatum. But the more times you do this, the more they will learn. Each child learns so differently, and at different ages. Children will learn at their own pace when they are ready.
I just wanted to share this experience, since I was very happy with my child for settling down from her fit and making the right choice in the end. It doesn’t always happen that way. Actually, more often than not, she is sent to a time out, so it was a happy moment for me as a mom to see her finally eat that chicken and rice!



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