Toddler Tantrum Taming

Energetic toddlers can be brilliant and hilarious. They can charm you with their newfound wit and melt your heart with snuggly hugs. If they have also mastered the art of a successful and intense tantrum, they may even have the ability to bring an otherwise calm parent to their knees.

Most children have tantrums at some point and a gifted few have a natural ability for taking these tantrums to a level that makes their parents (who were certain that their child would never behave like that in public) utterly dumbfounded. Learning to prevent and manage tantrums is essential, unless a parent doesn’t mind trying to function out in the world with the nagging fear that their child may completely flip out, without warning, for the enjoyment of innocent bystanders.

Tantrums can run from short and mild to the extreme, lasting as long as an hour. Some children get so upset that they break out in hives or give themselves a stomach ache. I once brought my 2 year-old to the doctor because she threw herself on the floor and rolled around screaming for a full hour. I thought she must be ill, but it was only the first of many tantrum to come. Stay relaxed and use some of the techniques below to get your self and your child through these tough times.

As you will see, there are many ways a parent can prevent tantrums, as well as methods for diffusing the emotional intensity of the outbursts that inevitably happen.

How to Throw A Tantrum

All The Answers for Toddler Tantrums?

Tips For Preventing a Toddler Tantrum

  • Consider your toddler’s personality when designing their schedule. Some children thrive on a rigid routine, while others will enjoy a little bit of freedom. Work around their needs when planning your day. Schedule outings when they are well rested, well fed and generally calm.
  • Don’t ever get caught out in the big wide world with a hungry toddler and an empty snack bag. A grumbling toddler tummy can escalate into a raving child fast.
  • Say yes, when it is reasonable. Ask yourself: Is there really a good reason for saying no?
  • Provide them with one or two choices (too many choices may overwhelm them), giving them a sense of control. Do not let them choose things that are your decision to make, like “Do you want to wear a hat?” but rather, "Would you like to wear your red hat or the yellow?”
  • Keep an eye out for what may frustrate them. Eliminating challenges entirely is not a good idea, because they need to be challenged to learn and grow. Don’t expect more from them than that for which they are developmentally ready.
  • Learn to distract your child quickly from things he finds upsetting. He will learn to handle frustration eventually, but until then, find an enjoyable alternative.
  • Give your child fair warning. Let them know that in 5 minutes (or 2 or 10) that they will have to sit down for lunch, clean up their toys, leave the park etc.
  • Explain to them how you expect them to behave before you head out to a friend’s house, the grocery store or the park and feel free to offer some incentives to encourage them to comply.
  • If you sense your child is about to lose it, give them a bear hug from behind and whisper in their ear. Tell them everything is going to be okay, and ask them if they need your help controlling themselves or if they would like to manage on their own. This is a positive, loving way to calm an edgy child.

Managing Toddler Tantrums

  • Stay calm. Speak calmly and softly to your child. Yelling or threatening will only strengthen your child’s emotional storm. If you expect your child to learn to control their anger, start by managing your own.
  • Remove them from the situation if they cannot calm down. This may mean leaving a full cart of groceries in aisle 8, but that is okay. If you are at home, move them to a room where they can be alone. Let them continue their tantrum somewhere safe, and ignore it. Sometimes, it is not possible to make a quick exit. If this is the case, try every method until you find one that works for you and your child.

  • Recognize their frustration, and reflect it back to them. “ You are frustrated that you can’t have the toy you want today.” This can help diffuse their emotions.
  • Ignore the flare up. This will work with some children, but do not use this method if your child is extremely sensitive or going through a difficult time on some level.
  • Distraction works best with younger toddlers at the onset of a tantrum. Find one of their favorite things to divert their attention, or keep a surprise item with you when running errands.
  • Some experts recommend holding a child tightly during a tantrum. This will work for some toddlers, particularly the more sensitive child.
  • If you are at home, join them. Lay on the floor with them, kicking and screaming and turn it into a joke. Lighten up this very normal phase of childhood. Warning: some children will find this method even more infuriating, because you are stealing their spotlight!

When It Is Finally Over

It is best for both of you to let it go and move on to another activity. Lectures and forced apologies are not always necessary, especially if the tantrum was the result of something beyond their control, such as hunger, frustration or exhaustion. Examine the situation carefully before issuing a punishment. Did they really do something wrong?

If you are lucky, you will be able to limit the tantrums to places where no one knows you, where other children are behaving badly as well, or at least not in the presence of those most excellent parents who happened to have given birth to angels in human form.

Allow your child to command attention in a more positive way, because as they get older, or find themselves with a sibling to fuel t heir anger, positive attention is really what they are hoping for, or I should say, any attention whatsoever.

And if the tantrums just get to be too much, and you simply cannot deal with your little one head on for another minute, there is one final option:

Hide in the bathroom and think about how it is only a matter of time before your screaming child will outgrow this phase!

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Comments 44 comments

stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 8 years ago from Bend, Oregon

Great tips, Amy Jane! I agree 100% with everything you say here. My kids, though not toddlers any longer, still throw tantrums. One thing I like to do now is to look them straight in the eye and challenge them... "don't you dare smile! I really don't want you to smile right now!" It will usually get them cracking up. (maybe not a toddler... but an older kid it works charms)


amy jane profile image

amy jane 8 years ago from Connecticut Author

Thanks Steph, for your comment and the tip! I can't wait to try out your method on my 8-year-old. She takes life too seriously sometimes. :) I pretend to be "robot mommy" to get my 4 year-old out of her fits. She immeadiately starts playing along.


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 8 years ago from Bend, Oregon

Robot Mommy - that is a good one! My older boys would LOVE that!


Rob Jundt profile image

Rob Jundt 8 years ago from Midwest USA

Great article as always. Tantrums are always a challenge but your advice here will be invaluable to many. Great job.


WeddingConsultant profile image

WeddingConsultant 8 years ago from DC Metro Area

Boy, could I just print this off and pass it out to parents I run into? haha maybe I'm being to harsh. Hold that thought until after we have our baby...


amy jane profile image

amy jane 8 years ago from Connecticut Author

Robot Mommy is a fun part to play too, Steph :)

Thanks so much, Rob! Even with all the tricks, sometimes there is just nothing a parent can do but ride it out :) Hopefully these will make it a little easier.

We will see, Pete in a couple of years, how you feel about it! :) I was like you, even after my first child. I couldn't understand how some parents could be so ineffective handling their kids. The truth is, some children are just more difficult to manage than others, and it is not always within the parents control! My first daughter had tantrums - short and manageable. My second - look out! Once she kicked me so hard in the ribs that I CRIED!


Blogger Mom profile image

Blogger Mom 8 years ago from Northeast, US

I've been at the receiving end of marathon tantrums (one lasted 45 minutes, thank goodness we were at home!) and your points all make sense. Great hub!


amy jane profile image

amy jane 8 years ago from Connecticut Author

Blogger Mom, I know your pain! The first time my second child had tantrum, I actually called the pediatrician and brought her in. I thought something was terribly wrong with her physically, because she rolled around screaming for an entire hour. She was only a year old and I didn't realise they could start so young! I hope your child is outgrowing the tantrum phase quickly. :)


ahmu profile image

ahmu 8 years ago

Good tips.


amy jane profile image

amy jane 8 years ago from Connecticut Author

Thanks Ahmu!


C.S.Alexis profile image

C.S.Alexis 8 years ago from NW Indiana

I like the idea that you consider the child's individual personality and also giving them choices. Choices can always be something you want them to do anyway and it lends the child a way to think for their self (even though you are setting the choices) they feel a sense of control. Kids are smart and will most often make a smart choice. Great suggestions for anyone having to work with children!


andreblog profile image

andreblog 8 years ago from Indonesia

Great article and Great Tips.

I hope this article can do in my plans,

Thanks


amy jane profile image

amy jane 8 years ago from Connecticut Author

Hi C.S. Alexis, and thank you for your comment. I agree, kids are way smarter than they get credit for, and they are all so incredibly different! :)

Thanks andreblog, glad you enjoyed it!


Peter M. Lopez profile image

Peter M. Lopez 8 years ago from Sweetwater, TX

Excellent advice, amy jane...I assume, I'll know soon enough. I will definitely be referring to this in the next few months. Great hub.


amy jane profile image

amy jane 8 years ago from Connecticut Author

Thanks, Peter. Yes, you will dealing with these things soon enough!


Lissie profile image

Lissie 8 years ago from New Zealand

Good hub my nephew was going thru the throwing himself on the floor and screaming -all us adults moved to another room so after a minute or so the noise stopped , he followed us into the kitchen, threw himself on the floor and started screaming again - I laughed it was such a brilliant performance - his parents were doing the ignoring thing but being laughed at shut him up - he was a bit bemused I think! Probably damaged his ego for the life - ROTFL!


gamergirl profile image

gamergirl 8 years ago from Antioch, TN

Oh wow!! This is great! I'm going to have to keep this Hub, Amy Jane. You say all the things I've been saying for years!


amy jane profile image

amy jane 8 years ago from Connecticut Author

Lissie, that is so funny! Glad it worked too. Some kids will get even more worked up when you ignor them - my daughter gets so angry the she will break out in hives! I think that is rare, though :)

Thanks, Gamergirl! Great minds think alike :)


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America

This is an excellent Hub and an insightful discussion thread. Over the last two decades, I've seen the age of children having tantrums gradually and steadily. In my area, I'm seeing a lot (100's) of full-blown toddler tantrums by 6- and 7-year olds and a few 8-year-olds.

Our city is becoming really crowded with incoming residents and more parents are working two jobs each; there is also increased violence in our schools the last couple of years, so perhaps this is all part of it. I think part of it is too much yelling and not enough training and accountability, as your Hub advises, Amy.

It's harder to raise children every decade, but this information helps. Thumbs up!


amy jane profile image

amy jane 8 years ago from Connecticut Author

Thanks so much, Patty. I think you are absolutely right. The daily stress on entire families is clearly being expressed by children. As they get older, if they have limited opportunities to express their frustration or little training in self control, tantrums are one way it can all come out. We need to help our children find a better outlet.


Melanie Henderson profile image

Melanie Henderson 8 years ago

Great tips, Amy Jane! I'm printing it for my husband so that he can see how others recommend handling tantrums. I use some of your suggestions already. My 4 yr. old had mild tantrums but my 23 mo. old is hell on wheels. His dad says I just spoil him and he thinks I have some magic wand (I wish!) that I can wave to make him stop. Any suggestions on retraining men to stop throwing tantrums when the kids do? HaHa


amy jane profile image

amy jane 8 years ago from Connecticut Author

LOL Melanie! I wish I knew how to stop "daddy tantrums!" You are not alone in experiencing that :)

Isn't it amazing that two children can be so different? Even the techniques you use for one may not be effective with the other. My second child was far more difficult. I think she felt that she had to scream louder to get everyone's attention.

Thanks for reading and commenting!


seamus profile image

seamus 8 years ago

Thanks for this! I deal with these now. They are baffling. I've found it useful to be compassionate and provide a safe place for the tantrum. In one case I took the little one outside and explained we could not stay in the store with her screaming because it hurt people's ears. She got her breath back and we were able to go back in. My explanation seemed to calm her down some.


amy jane profile image

amy jane 8 years ago from Connecticut Author

You are very welcome, Seamus! Finding what works for your child may take time, but is certainly worth the effort. Everyone can enjoy life so much more when tantrums aren't ruling a household. Thanks for reading and commenting!


monitor profile image

monitor 8 years ago from The world.

What a great hub. There is a huge amount of help here. Thank you Amy Jane. Kids are smart and how we deal with tantrums of any degree is to me an important issue. How the child feels after a tantrum, how the adult feels after that same tantrum and what is remembered by both parties are all three important factors.

Your Fan.

Mon.


amy jane profile image

amy jane 8 years ago from Connecticut Author

Thanks Mon! I agree, when it is all over, can you and your child recover and move on to enjoy the rest of the day? We all really need to learn to do that and to not dwell on every single little failure. I think if my kids see me moving on to better things and not holding a grudge, they will learn to do the same -eventually. This is not easy for everyone, though.

Thanks for reading :)


JJ 8 years ago

Hi there,

I was worried this morning, my 2 year old had a screaming/crying/hitting/breaking/ epsiode, and i have never hear anything like it.

It went on for over 45 mins and I really thought i needed to take him to a doctor to get him checked out, you have put my mind at ease a little, but i am concerned as this ahs only just started in the last week, we never had any probs with him before??


amy jane profile image

amy jane 8 years ago from Connecticut Author

Hi J.J., I know it can be scary to watch you child do this for the first time. 45 minutes to 1 hour is a long tantrum, but not unheard of. It does seem to come out of no where sometimes. There is no harm in taking in taking him to the doctor, but if it really is a tantrum, unfortunately your doctor will not be able to help!

Prepare yourself by learning as much as you can about what sets off the tantrums for your child and then look to avoid those situations for a while. It is a phase and it will pass. Hang in there! There is a lot you can do to make it a little easier on yourself and your son.


lenkasvec profile image

lenkasvec 8 years ago from Slovakia

Great hub, I agree with all that you say and I´ve learned a few tips myself although I have three kids already. With our first one we succeeded nicely with tight holding - maybe you want to have a look at my hub on tight embrace. But it doesn´t work with the second one - he´s three now and we have to look for other ways how to deal with his tantrums. And I am pretty sure that the third one - only 8 months old - will be again another story. So thanks for your tips.


amy jane profile image

amy jane 8 years ago from Connecticut Author

Thank you lenkasvec, for sharing and reading. I will look at your hub. I like the tight holding /bear hug method alot, but like you said not all children respond well to it. Children are amazing. They are all so different. I feel like I have to rediscover everything with each child! My youngest has just begun her toddler journey. I hope she will be easier to handle!


TwinsMommaShana profile image

TwinsMommaShana 8 years ago from Charlotte, NC

This is some great advice, I only wish i had it about a year ago, the bulk of the tantrums have died down a bit. I'll never forget when I would to go to church and one of my twins would throw a tantrum almost at the same time, every sunday, right as the preacher was about to deliver his sermon. Half the pew would be covered with elmo dolls to coloring books in order to keep them peaceful. As soon as she got bored she would find some reason to fall out and smack the back of her head against the pew with a loud "Thump," and then burst out screaming. She would always do it before I could catch her, plus she's very solid. Of course everyone in the church wants to look around and find out who's this mother that's abusing her child. After one of those sundays. This older lady comes up to me and asks me "Why do you let your child hit her head on the pew all the time?" As if she forgot how it was when her kids were small. The audacity of this woman! Like I didn't feel bad enough.


amy jane profile image

amy jane 8 years ago from Connecticut Author

TwinsMamaShana, I am so glad to hear that the tantrums are cooling off! It always amazes me how people think we are not handling or caring for our children to their standards. One of my daughters falls down all the time. She falls off chairs and seems to trip over nothing. I am always watching but not always in reach to catch her. Some kids are just like that! I am so sorry you had to put up with that woman asking you that. I hate to admit that I go to church much less these days simply because I know that I will not be able to get my youngest to sit still. I applaud you for continuing to try. :)


Patricia Costanzo profile image

Patricia Costanzo 8 years ago from Behind the Redwood Curtain

I'm soooo there right now. I keep telling myself it'll be over soon but then so will the cuteness of toddlerhood.


amy jane profile image

amy jane 8 years ago from Connecticut Author

Hi Patricia, I know what you mean! My youngest is just about two and I am ready to go through this all over again -but when it's over I know I'll miss the cuteness that goes along with it!


LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 8 years ago from London

The best advice my mother gave me about my toddler is, "pick your battles". So if he insists on wearing odd socks, who cares? That way, when I do say "no", he's learning that I mean it.


amy jane profile image

amy jane 8 years ago from Connecticut Author

I absolutely agree! No sense in having more arguments than needed with a fiesty toddler! My kids have worn Halloween cosutmes in the spring and summer clothes (only in the house) during the winter. :)


LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London

Isaac likes wearing odd socks, and (slob mother alert) I really don't care.


amy jane profile image

amy jane 7 years ago from Connecticut Author

LOL! If it makes them happy, why not? One of my friend's kids loved to wear her mittens so much, she wore them half the summer. It's certainly not worth the battle. They are developing their own sense of style!


partluck profile image

partluck 7 years ago from Edison, NJ

This is a great hub, and extremely helpful. Thank You.


amy jane profile image

amy jane 7 years ago from Connecticut Author

Thank you Partluck. Toddler tantrum are so challenging! I'm glad you found this helpful.


Jane  7 years ago

Hi Amy, I like the article and find what you have writte to be useful. However one thought that comes to my mind is, if every time your child has a tantrum you do something funny to bring them out of it won't they become reliant on you to calm them down? So then when they are not with you and can't have their own way, will have a much more powerful and prolonged tantrum?

What are your thoughts?


brandyBachmann profile image

brandyBachmann 6 years ago

joining them in their tantrums! now that's fun! hehe great tips you have here Amy..keep it coming :)


amy jane profile image

amy jane 6 years ago from Connecticut Author

Glad you like my suggestion Brandy!

Jane, I don't think they will necessarily have a more powerful tantrum when you are not there - I think typically children save those for Mom exclusively. Humor is a good way to redirect a child's anger, but it isn't the only way.


Tonipet profile image

Tonipet 4 years ago from The City of Generals

Hi Amy. Kids are real smart and can even outsmart us at times haha. I take these challenges as among the fun moments of having kids around, and their tantrums?... are lessons to make Moms even smarter! Your suggestions are all useful - really useful! Thanks for sharing.

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