How to Handle a Five-Year-Old's Tantrums

By Kathryn Hatter
Your 5-year-old isn't too old to throw a tantrum when it suits her.
Your 5-year-old isn't too old to throw a tantrum when it suits her.

When your child was a toddler, you probably anticipated temper tantrums and dealt with them when they occurred. As your youngster gains a few more years, it’s natural to expect temper tantrums to dissipate somewhat. A 5-year-old is not beyond uncontrollable anger, though. If your child throws a tantrum, knowing how to handle it will help you teach her better coping skills and anger management.

Focus on your child as soon as you sense anger or frustration building to try to head off some of the tantrum. Show empathy and understanding by acknowledging your youngster’s anger and putting the feelings into words, advises psychologist Laura Markham, with the Aha! Parenting website. You might say, “You sound really angry right now.”

Move in and establish contact with your child. Depending on the extent of her emotions, she may resist your contact or she might allow you to hug or hold her. If your child won’t let you touch or hold her, speak calmly to help her move past the anger. Holding your child at this point is not to control her during the tantrum, it’s to comfort her to help her move through it.

Protect yourself to avoid injury if your child lashes out at you during the tantrum. Tell your child calmly that you won’t allow him to hurt you and move out of reach so he doesn’t hit, kick, scratch or bite you. Monitor your child’s actions to ensure that he doesn’t hurt himself. If you fear that he will hurt himself, move in and prevent injuries from occurring.

Wait for the explosive anger to dissipate and then comfort your youngster. She probably needs to cry to release the anger, so comfort her while she cries. (ref 1) Empathize with the feelings by verbalizing what you think she was feeling, advises pediatrician Melissa Arca, writing for “The Sacramento Bee.”

Talk about the tantrum with your 5-year-old. He’s old enough to sit and dissect where he went wrong in the scenario that just unfolded so he can learn more effective ways of coping with not getting what he wants or feeling frustrated.Give your youngster some ideas for coping strategies he might use next time instead, such as using words, expending energy through jumping jacks or using positive self-talk to try to calm himself down. He might tell himself, “It’s okay -- it’s not that big a deal” or “I can handle this.”

Stay firm about whatever precipitated your 5-year-old’s tantrum. If you told her “no” about something, don’t change your mind in response to the behavior or you could reinforce it, warns physician Sharon M. Tisza, with the Department of Pediatrics, University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine.


Your 5-year-old has an advantage over younger tantrum-throwers -- she has practice and she might also understand how to sidestep your tantrum-management tactics. If you perceive that your youngster is engaging in tantrums frequently to manipulate, remain firm and consistent to ensure that you don’t reward the behavior, advises psychologist Randy Cale, with the Stop Tantrums Now website.

About the Author

Kathryn Hatter is a veteran home-school educator, as well as an accomplished gardener, quilter, crocheter, cook, decorator and digital graphics creator. As a regular contributor to Natural News, many of Hatter's Internet publications focus on natural health and parenting. Hatter has also had publication on home improvement websites such as Redbeacon.