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Dealing with Temper Tantrums

Dealing with Temper Tantrums

October 10, 2016 - By Bebe Jacobs

One day your child is sweet and angelic and the next it's like they are possessed. There's no escaping the dreaded tantrums and your little one won't be fussy where they kick off.   

Have you ever met a parent whose child has never had a temper tantrum? No neither have I, but while some parents can ignore this stage and can deal with it as another passing phase, many parents find temper tantrums immensely stressful to deal with. They occur most frequently from 1-3 year olds but some toddlers continue to have tantrums well into childhood and I’m sure we all know some adults who still have them!

So here are some reasons why children, especially toddlers have temper tantrums:

They are frustrated and do not have the language to express their frustration – imagine if you were trying to do something  for the first time like learn to drive and you didn’t have the language skills to ask or express your emotions and needs.

They are seeking attention – and always remember, negative attention in a child’s mind is better than no attention.

Your child is tired or hungry but again cannot express it in words.

Your child is trying to be independent and do something for themselves –they WANT control over their environment but they are too young, too immature (or simply too small) right now to be able to do exactly what they want to be able to do.

Here are some Top Tips to help you handle those temper tantrums:

Whatever happens stay calm.  It is hard not to let tantrums affect you as the sound of them can be so hard to bear but this tantrum is their problem don’t make it yours.

Try to head them off by anticipating what might upset them in an upcoming situation. So if you’re off to the supermarket explain in advance what your rules are about sweets or remaining in the trolley or staying sitting in their pushchair. That way you can head off many tantrums as they will know clearly what the expectations are.

Remind yourself that if you give in, the child has now found a clever way of getting exactly what they want – they just have to make that dreadful noise again and kick their feet – and hey presto you do what they want.  Do not give them this false sense of power!

If your child is still able to listen – as the tantrum is beginning, maybe before it becomes full blown, reflectively listen. Think about if you were them – what emotions are they expressing to you. Then with few words describe what you think they are feeling “I’m sorry – I know you were looking forward to playing in the park today but it’s raining too hard,” or “ I can see you’re angry because I’m not letting you have a snack before dinner. You love to eat crisps but I can’t let you have them right before dinner time.”

If your child is really young and immature use fewer words when reflectively listening. So in the above examples you might say “Rainy today. That’s making you sad. But no. We don’t go to the park on rainy days. Yes I know – you’re sad.”

Change your attitude to temper tantrums. See them as a teaching tool – to help your child know boundaries – after all we have to learn that we cannot get everything we want in life – or most 13 year olds would be driving their own cars!

Maybe your child genuinely does not get enough 1 on 1 time with you – if so they will have tantrums to get your attention – so childhood is an important time for you to be with them. What can you change about your schedule to make this happen?

Maybe you are babying your child too much and not allowing them to feel independent, mature, responsible, in control of small things? What are you still doing for them that they are now capable of doing for themselves?  (You should ask yourself this question every three months as children often complain that their parents are doing too much and although you might think they like it –they actually usually want to be more self reliant – and in the long run it’s more health for them.)

You are your child’s teacher so take as many opportunities as you can to teach them new skills from cooking, to putting on their own clothes, to showing them how to play appropriately with a new toy. This way you can reduce the tantrums they have through the frustration of not being able to do things. Break the processes down into small steps when you are teaching them.

Think carefully before you embark on a shopping trip or outing, or visit to friends and relatives. Is your child really too tired for this outing? Have they been properly fed, and are you changing their routine too often? You may as a parent, want to do what you want to do, but parenting involves being less selfish and abandoning even desired outings if this is not a suitable time to take your child.

If you haven’t managed to ward off the tantrum or calm them down by reflectively listening, then try this:

Praise them for even the slightest movement towards calming down. You might not feel like it if you are allowing their tantrums to affect your emotions, but try to stay calm and show you’re pleased when they start to calm down.

Don’t forget to hug and cuddle when the tantrum is over although for some this might not be for a few hours. Respect their need for space and time to get over it. Some children feel guilty or bad for quite a long time after a tantrum – especially if they have been rude to you.

If they are having a tantrum over an object – remove them from the object or remove the object while telling them – briefly, that  you understand. “Yes I know you’d love to play with the scissors because you’ve seen Mummy using them, but they are too sharp”  (You could add there that if they get their own scissors –which of course are age appropriate you’ll teach them how to cut using them. But they may still really want yours)

Don’t try too much logic – that’s for adults. Show your understanding in brief short sentences.

Hitting or spanking won’t stop repeated tantrums in the future. It just shows them that adults haven’t grown up and can’t control their temper tantrums either –so why should they?

The older your child, the shorter the tantrums will become until you’ll be looking back on a day, then a week, then a month, then forever without any more of that ear splitting, high decibel screaming which is driving you crazy!

Bebe Jacobs parentingcoachingnow



Great advice - it's so useful to understand that tantrums happen for different reasons and that children can have very different temperaments - remaining calming is always key! I find it helps to re-frame tantrums when you have said "No" as a positive thing -your child has come up against an appropriate boundary, ultimately this will make her feel safe and contained. Just save the "No"s for the times when they are really necessary and try to head as many clashes as possible off at the pass - distraction is a valuable parenting tool ! <a href="http://www.ea-feeding.com">solving picky eating</a>

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