How to manage other people’s trials and tantrums with NLP

When your child or an adult you know flips out, melts down or lashes out, shouts how do you know what’s really going on – and how to deal with it calmly and compassionately?

We can all overreact sometimes and when it happens to someone we love it’s hard to know what to do for the best, these extreme reactions often trigger our own. If this is you, someone you work with or someone you love, it’s important to understand what’s going on in your brain when this happens and that can better inform you as to how to deal with it.toddlers Tantrums NLP parenting


When someone has an outburst or meltdown, the rational brain is hijacked by one of the earlier brain functions. The fight, flight and freeze chemicals in our brains fires much much faster than the rational brain, which is why when we are terrified or distraught, we can’t think straight. Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) is an applied psychology with lots of helpful techniques for dealing with these situations.

toddlers children Tantrums NLP parenting


Here are my top tips:

For children:

  • A child’s rational brain is not fully online until they are around 5, until then it is developing, so rationalising with a small child will not help them as their brain is not yet ready to process rationale.
  • Think emotions first, the first job is to get them calm. This could be by removing them from the situation or just sitting with them. It is important that you stay calm as children are very switched on to adults emotional states.
  • Listen to them and empathise with how they are feeling. It helps to label the feeling ‘I understand you are disappointed/ sad/ angry’ 


 toddlers adults Tantrums NLP parenting

For adults:

  • Don’t try to rationalise with them, their rational brain is not functioning well so they can’t respond.
  • Be careful about comforting them, sometimes this will make them worse
  • It is often best to give them some space and let them know where you are when they feel like talking, their brain needs to re regulated and that can take some time
  • If appropriate tend to their immediate needs, like a drink
  • If you have enough rapport with get them to take some deep breaths. This really helps with re-regulation but can sound patronising if there is no rapport. So if someone is angry at you – I would advise against this one.
  • Let them express their emotions without making comment of judgement. If you want to show empathy listen and let them know they’re heard. Don’t tell them you know how they feel because this can come across as dismissive or insincere.
  • Don’t trivialise their distress, this will only make them feel worse and they may never forgive you.


Pretty similar for children and adults isn’t it? Once the emotions are re-regulated, you can then have any necessary conversation with them. This can be some time later between 10 mins and a few hours.

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