9 Ways to Prevent a Meltdown -- Your Kid's and Yours, Too

A toddler in the midst of a fit may send you into one too. Yet most experts agree that staying calm is key to defusing an emotionally overwrought child. "Losing your temper doesn't just make things worse, it actually creates the very outcome you were hoping to avoid in the first place," says Hal Runkel, an Atlanta-based therapist, father of two, and author of ScreamFree Parenting. In other words, a screaming, raging toddler. However, the occasional parental blowup is normal, and it won't scar your child for life. But with a few coping strategies, you can head off two tantrums at once: yours and your child's.

Soothing Solution: Take a Time-Out

double tantrum

Why it works for your kid: By placing your child in a brief time-out (one minute per year of his age) in a separate room, you'll eliminate a major reason for why he's flipping out in the first place: to get a rise out of you. "The vast majority of the time, a child has a temper tantrum to get attention and control," says Carl Arinoldo, PhD, a child psychologist and coauthor of Essentials of Smart Parenting. "An actor doesn't get onstage and play to an empty house." Plus, time by himself halts the downward emotional spiral, allowing him to regroup more quickly.

Why it works for you: Hiding out behind a closed door for a few minutes gives you space to chill out. You can even say it's the punishment for losing your temper. "I tell my kids, 'I'm sorry I yelled at you. I'm going to my room to take a time-out until I can calm down,'" explains Katie Baird, a mother of three from Flower Mound, Texas. "Sometimes they pound the door and try to get in, but more often than not they think it's really funny that Mommy has to go to time-out." Whether you're reading, meditating, or surfing the Web, five minutes alone helps you regain perspective and control.

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