What to do when your child refuses to be comforted.


There are some people who take on life’s trials a little more than others. You know the ones; they worry about everything or get stressed by the small things. They may get angry quickly or fall in love at the drop of a hat. Children are no different. We tend to call them ‘sensitive’ or ‘sensory’ and, as a teacher I see these children sometimes struggle just a little more than other children.

The other day, I watched as a mum tried to get her child to come away from the school playground as it was time to go home. The child was having none of it. We’ve all been there! The child was having a full on tantrum and the mum was getting very stressed by it all. She lost her temper (fair enough) and grabbed her child and carried him to the car. I didn’t see what came next but I can imagine the drive home was horrible and stressful for everyone. I know this because I’ve been there.

Looking back and knowing what I know now (oh! the benefit of hindsight), I realise that my son was quite a sensory soul. He hated clothes with labels as they itched his skin (he will still cut out many labels). He hated moving from trousers to shorts or shorts to trousers when the seasons changed. He hated swings and didn’t like getting his hands dirty. He liked to know what was happening and why, and he loved routine. He was also a very active, bright, spirited little boy who was always busy like many, many other little children. As an educator, I wasn’t worried about his development but looking back and knowing what I know now, I can see that at times, change was tricky for him and he liked to be in control of that change. I also know that there were things that I could have done to make our lives easier which I would like to share with you.

If you sense your child is overloaded and is beginning to battle you, here is my advice on what may work to calm the situation and hopefully, make your life a little easier:

Take a step back.

Charging in when your child is about to have a melt down or is about to have a tantrum may not help them. Just watch and see if by staying away, they can work out what is making them frustrated. Occasionally, they will work it out and life can carry on.

Try to understand how they feel and why they feel that way.

Most of the time, we know why our children are starting to get overloaded. It’s that they are tired or hungry. The frustration they feel at that very moment is exactly the same as how we feel when the computer crashes in the middle of an important report or when the repair man doesn’t turn up when you’ve stayed in all day waiting! Empathise with them and it makes those situations easier.

Connect in a different way

Perhaps they don’t want a cuddle but may prefer verbal communication? Perhaps they do need a hug. It’s all about mixing it up depending on the situation. Try humour or giving your child space. A tired, frustrated child may just need to be hugged or put to bed. Sometimes, they have gone past the point for discussion. I found a tight hug was often all was needed but other times a biscuit did the trick!

Don’t yell or get angry

Anger doesn’t help. I’ve had to remind myself of this often! It’s definitely not easy but we all know that when we are angry our children’s behaviour spirals and becomes more negative. Keep calm and they will be calmer. Don’t punish them for shouting because they won’t learn at this moment. Obviously don’t let them hit you but their brain is full of frustration and emotion so they won’t really understand that are shouting.

Let them change their mind.

This is key with little children. They may really want a cuddle but can’t tell you because they will have lost control and you would have ‘won’. Stand back to be there. They may change their mind.

Don’t give them too many choices.

Young children do not need lots of choice but of course, that is what they want so give them limited choices instead. For example, ‘do you want the red or blue cup?”  ‘Do you want to put the toothpaste on your toothbrush whilst mummy washes your face?’ ( you can then wash their face!). Don’t ask them what they want to eat, instead ask them if they want to spoon the vegetables on to their plate. In this way, you are giving them some control but you are still in charge of the important stuff.

Talk about it after the incident.

There is absolutely no point in talking to your child when they are in the middle of a melt down or tantrum. Wait until they have calmed down and then they will be more able to listen and engage with you.
I hope this his post was useful to you. I would love to hear your views.

What do you do when your child refuses to be comforted. Oldhouseintheshires. #parenting

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  • My daughter is definitely a sensitive child but thankfully she is always receptive to being comforted but these are great tips for those who are struggling in these sort of situations thanks so much for linking this up to #coolmumclub xoxo

    • I’m glad it may prove useful to someone. X

  • Such great advice! Hindsight is a marvelous thing. With my son I would charge forward like a bull – with my second i had to take a different tact and employed lots of the advice give here and it definitey works. Great post! #pocolo

  • My eldest daughter is a sensitive soul – there are times when she want to be comforted and then there are times when she just want to be left alone. If the latter then we give her the necessary space and when she is ready we will talk about it. I have learnt not to be pushy as that causes more tension. Thanks for some great advise. #blogcrush

  • Thanks so much for these tips. I, being a sensory adult (diagnosed autistic, in fact), can totally assert that these strategies help me. Particularly, tuning in on he type of connection I need helps me.

    • Oh that’s a kind comment! Thank you for taking the tine to read my post. 😃

  • My son is a wise, sensitive little man but can’t yet speak properly, so his frustration is palpable. Often when he tantrums and it’s gone past the point of no return, we let him have ‘alone time’. He’s calmly put in his bedroom and left for a few minutes, after being told that we’re there for him and we will return in x minutes to see if he’s ready. Works every time. It’s like he needs to work through his anger/frustration and then once we go back and ask if he’s ready, he’ll either say ‘no’ and carry on or stop and come out as if nothing has happened. It took us a while to happen upon this technique, but now we have it, it works for a treat for us. I’ve often felt guilty that he’s not a hugger. I used to try and hug it out of him, but this would get him more upset and flustered. Your tips are wonderful and things that I’ll add to the pot of handling flash points. #BlogCrush

    • Ah thank you Kirsty. Your strategy sounds perfect. Is he school age? I taught a little boy who was 4 where we built him a sensory space calling it his calming space. It was a pop up tent covered in towels! By the end of term 1, all the children used it from time to time! Such a success all round! Good luck with your lovely boy. Xx

      • He’s just 2.5 years old. We also have a little space downstairs that we use. He has a thing of taking his socks off when tantrumming too? He also used to head-bang, but we never drew attention to it so it soon subsided. So hard to watch them when they’re in the grips of a tantrum, but intervening would only serve to prolong his pain. So very hard to be a parent sometimes.
        I’m really enjoying exploring your blog. I’ve learnt a lot and you’ve inspired a great deal of confidence in me. Thanks for taking the time to jot down your thoughts/opinions and experience. X

        • Ah that is so kind of you Kirsty! I try…although I’m definately not an expert! It does sound as if your boy is quite sensory. Pop back anytime. I will answer private questions if that is also helpful. Xx

  • My eldest had communication issues and is easily overwhelmed (he s getting better as he gets older). It can be frustrating and heartbreaking not knowing how to help #thatfridaylinky

  • This is just the post o needed to read today- thank you! My sons behaviour has been awful lately but he is so sensitive and I think that is a lot to do with what’s going on. I have been getting a bit shouty and angry because he is being so difficult and frustrating but now I can see by being calmer maybe things will get better – getting annoyed with him definitely isn’t making things any easier xx #blogcrush

    • Ah I’m glad this post was useful to you. It can be hard when they are acting out. x

  • Absolutely agree with the choices. I would always give a maximum of three and it’s the way it’s worded. #DreamTeam

  • Some great advice there hun, thanks for sharing with #pocolo.

  • This is brilliant advice. My littlest is definitely a more sensitive type and I’m so guilty of trying to readon with him when he’s in the full throws of a meltdown. Of course it gets me nowhere which then makes me more frustrated… and round and round we go! I’ll try these tips out. Thanks for sharing this with us at #DreamTeam x

    • Oh I’m glad they may prove useful. Good luck with your little one. X

  • Great tips. One of my twins is very sensitive and changes her mind often. It can be so hard to find out what upset her or find how she wants comforting. #familyfun

    • Thats it -sometimes I dont think there is a reason either. x

  • This is brilliant, really insightful. It is so hard when your children have what seems like an inconsolable meltdown and knowing what to do for the best can be really tough. I think it takes some time to learn and get to know our children and their quirks and nuances. Even then we can get it wrong but giving them time and letting them get on with it can sometimes be all we can do. Thank you for joining us at #familyfun

  • Very helpful! I try and practice most of this naturally but it’s so nice to read it so I don’t have doubt it! They’re funny little souls with so much going on. Just be there 😍#familyfun

  • SUCH a lovely, useful post! Some great advice here. I can relate to most of these points too, in hindsight, and I am slowly but surely learning to deal with my sons tantrums and frustrations in a calmer, better manner. Of course I still loose it at times, but you’re right, it’s so much easier when we just listen and empathise rather than shout…

    • Glad you loved it Nicole. Thanks for the lovely comment and good luck.

    • Oh ‘I’m so glad you found it helpful. Xx

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