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Replace tantrums with kindness at home

Author Philippa Murphy

Replace tantrums with kindness at home

As many of you know, I deliver Professional Development Workshops for Early Childhood Educators and one of these is all about ‘Inspiring Kindness’ in centres. What many of you may not know though is that I have a three year old boy that recently went through some out-of-control developmental tantrums with almost everything we were doing. This testing of his boundaries was making our lives together rather stressful and exhaustive – I’m sure many of you reading this know that feeling!

After trying my ‘normal’ repertoire of distraction, warnings and timeouts without results I decided to practice what I preach at the workshops and use one of the Inspire Kindness projects that I give out to the teachers. Well – IT WORKED WONDERS!!! Seriously! Elijah went from tantrum master to a kind, helpful, listening, yes listening boy and all from some tiny balls in a jar –incredible really. While he still has his moments, as any toddler does, it is quickly rectified by his Warm Fuzzy Jar which we use a lot on a daily basis.

One of the best things about the Warm Fuzzy Jar is both Eli and his step-brother get to see where we, as parents, are kind to them. Whether it’s getting Eli dressed, getting them breakfast, or helping them clean up their stuff, our boys are learning appreciation at the same time. This tool really has been a breath of fresh air for us all and I, of course, want to share it with you.

Materials required

  • Large Jars – one for everyone in your family
  • Fuzzy Balls
  • Label
  • Reward – optional. We only had to use this once when we first started and then the fuzzy ball itself became the reward


  • Print or write out a label to stick on the jar with your child’s name on it and the words ‘Is It Kind?’ These will be the words that you use when your child does something that isn’t kind e.g. hurts someone or something, doesn’t listen, screams, etc
  • When they do something that is kind, or they change their behaviour after you have asked them ‘Is It Kind?’ they get to put a ‘warm fuzzy’ into the jar.
  • When they keep doing something that is unkind then the words we have used for Elijah are, ‘I will take a fuzzy out of your jar because you are not being kind.’ Thankfully his reaction to this has been ‘no don’t’ and he changes his behaviour. In these situations when his behaviour takes a while to change we don’t give him a fuzzy ball. Instead when we see him do the opposite behaviour that took a while the first time to change, we are very quick to reward him with a ball, while recounting his change from earlier behaviour with him and exuberantly giving him a fuzzy ball.
  • As mentioned above, the first time we used this I drew a line on Elijah’s jar and he knew that once he reached this line he got his Hot Wheels Monster Truck. This helped motivate him toward the goal of kindness. After that first reward, which took him a day and a half to earn, the fuzzy ball became the thing he got excited about so I didn’t offer bigger rewards. For me this is the optimal way because the reality of life is that we don’t get rewarded every time we do something good and I personally like to teach Eli tools that closely replicate where he is heading as he grows. Each to their own of course.
  • Being consistent and taking every opportunity to accentuate the kind acts that your child, children and you do is important. This consistency of reward and positive reaction from you will boost your child’s pleasure in simple acts while teaching them their boundaries and your expectations in a positive way.

A few things our ‘reformed tantrum master’ gets a fuzzy ball for...

  • Listening and following through on instructions
  • Being kind to his new kitten – he became a tormentor to him for a bit so this has changed. YAY!
  • Eating his food well – pitched to him as being kind to his body
  • Helping himself e.g. getting himself dressed, brushing his teeth – teaching him that self-care is being kind
  • Helping others – bringing an awareness that others need to be treated well

Like I said earlier, this Warm Fuzzy Jar has been sooooo helpful for our family. My wish is that it shows fantastic results for yours too, and please do feel free to share your changes with me. I’d love to hear them!


Last Updated: 01 June 2017