Children -- and even adults -- can have short fuses. Whether the person is five or 45, Real Simple offers advice for how to quickly deal with meltdowns and fits of rage.
The solution for all situations is to first acknowledge what's bothering the other person and then suggest a better way to deal with the issue:
One reason people throw tantrums is that they want to be heard, says Susan Orenstein, a psychologist in Cary, North Carolina, who focuses on marriage and relationships. “They grow louder and more animated as a way to get attention and show you that this issue is important to them.” So let the tantrum thrower know you feel his pain. This doesn’t mean you have to agree. A simple “I understand you’re angry” will suffice. With kids, it’s also important to let them know that it’s OK to express emotion, but in an appropriate way. You might say to a toddler, “I understand that you’re frustrated that you can’t get the refrigerator open,” and then explain a better way to react: “If you would ask me to please help you, I’d love to.”
Dr Harvey Karp also recommends a similar strategy in his Happiest Toddler on the Block book, where you essentially repeat or state exactly how the child is feeling. It takes patience, no doubt, but it's better than screaming back at the person who's in the midst of a meltdown.
Check out Real Simple's article for strategies for every age.
How to Handle Temper Tantrums [Real Simple]