Handling Temper Tantrums

Parenting Strategies for Extinguishing Tantruming

Avoid the Tantrum

The best way to control a tantrum is to keep it from happening, if possible. For example, if you know your toddler is tired, don't take him shopping. If you know he screams for your iPhone every time he sees it, place it out of his sight. Sometimes a child will throw a tantrum if he feels he has no control. Let him choose between an apple or a banana for snack time or ask if he wants his milk in the blue cup or the red one. Giving him choices will help him feel more independent and in control.

Stay Calm

No matter how upset or unreasonable your little one may become during a tantrum, it is your job to remain calm. Showing your frustration may worsen the tantrum. Hitting or spanking your child can lead to an increase of negative behavior from her. Your child relies on you to set an example, and your own calmness may help to calm her down.

Ignore It

One of the best ways to extinguish a tantrum is to ignore it. Children often throw tantrums just to get attention. If your child is in a safe place, leave him alone and don't respond to him. If there is no audience, the tantrum may quickly blow over on its own. You may want to move your child to a room where there are no people or toys to give him time to calm down. Alternatively, if you are in public, you may want to take him to the car. If moving your child isn't an option or if he is becoming out of control, you may need to hold him firmly for a few minutes so he doesn't hurt himself.

Don't Give In

If your child is throwing a tantrum because she wants something, don't give it to her. Doing so will teach her that her behavior will eventually be rewarded. It can be embarrassing for a child to lose a battle, so don't focus on the tantrum after it is over. You can tell your child you're glad she's feeling better or proud of her for regaining control, then move on to normal activities.

How to Teach Children the Difference Between Wants & Needs

Talk to your child about the difference between needs -- things that are necessary to survive -- and wants -- things that are fun or make life easier. After your discussion, label a piece of construction paper with "Needs" written on one side and "Wants" on the other. Grab a couple of old magazines and look through them with your child. When you find an item, cut it out and ask your child to glue it on the correct side of the construction paper. For instance, food items would go under "Needs," while toys should be pasted under "Wants."

Ask your child a series of questions when she whines about a product she wants. This helps her understand the criteria that make an item a need, rather than a want. If she wants a piece of candy, ask "Does this make your life easier? Do you need this to survive?" to help her think objectively about the differences.

Allow your child to make spending choices, suggests FamilyEducation.com. Whether she receives an allowance or she has some spending money from a relative, remind her that in order to purchase her "wants," she sometimes has to give up a "need." If you're shopping for school clothes, for instance -- she might really want a flashy new dress, but she really needs new socks and jeans. Give her the choice between the two, asking her to weigh the pros and cons of each.

Utilize open and frank dialogue when it comes to discussing needs and wants. A 2008 issue of "Illinois Parenting News" suggests parents remind their children of the difference between purchasing something that would be nice to have versus purchasing something that is necessary. If your child wishes he had the latest version of a video game console, for instance, remind him his older console works well and plays games, so he doesn't need a new one.

Things You Will Need

  • Old magazines
  • Construction paper
  • Glue
  • Markers

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

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.

Tip

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.

How to Prevent Temper Tantrums When Shopping With Children

Steer clear of things you know your child will want. For instance, unless you plan on buying your child a toy, don't go through the toy aisle in the store. Likewise, try to pick a checkout that has magazines instead of candy.

Let your child help. For instance, if you are deciding between two shirts for your child let him pick the color he prefers so he feels involved. Make a list of easy to find items for your child to be responsible for finding. Giving your child part of your shopping list gives him purpose and keeps him occupied.

Bring a toy for your child to play with while you are shopping. Shopping is not fun for children, especially when it is not for them. Bring a boredom buster with you to help prevent an outburst.

Act silly. WhattoExpect.com suggests that you do something zany to distract your child when he is near throwing a tantrum. Stick your tongue out and make a silly face. Flap your arms like a bird. If you can make your child laugh, the distraction will probably head off any tantrum that was about to take place.

Choose your battles. Sometimes it's easier to give your child what he wants then it is to calm him down from a temper tantrum. For instance, if you have been shopping for hours and your child asks for candy, it might be easier to let him have the candy then it would be to listen to him scream about the candy the entire ride home.

Pretend that you see something outlandish. WhattoExpect.com suggests that you tell your child you see a pony. Fully commit to the sighting by squinting and pointing the distance. Have your child look for it too. Hopefully, the distraction will divert him from throwing a tantrum.

Throw your own tantrum. According to Dr. Charles Fey, of Loveandlogic.com, mimicking your child’s tantrum will help distract him. Using fun instead of anger helps all the parties involved remain calm and less frustrated.

How to Handle a Baby's Tantrum in a Restaurant

Redirect your baby, if possible, to stop the tantrum. For example, if your child is reaching for something that's off-limits, quickly find a more appropriate alternative to offer him.

Calmly pick up your child and carry him to the restroom or your car until he can calm down, if redirection fails. Sometimes, a simple change of scenery can quash a tantrum, according to AskDrSears.com.

Pat your baby lightly on the back, gently stroke her hair and speak in reassuring tones to comfort her. Your calm presence can have a calming effect on your baby.

Tip

Head off tantrums by meeting your child's basic needs -- food, comfort, sleep -- at all times, according to Babycenter.com.

Choose restaurants that offer faster service to sidestep a circumstance that could result in a tantrum.

Keep off-limits items out of your baby's view to avoid a tantrum.

Warning

Don't worry about what other people think when dealing with your baby's tantrum. Giving in to your child to avoid public embarrassment reinforces the negative behavior, according to Babycenter.com.

How to Discipline a Screaming Two-Year-Old Child

Keep it together. Yes, a screaming two-year-old is bound to make anyone's blood pressure rise. But you must stay calm if you expect your kiddo to. After all, as KidsHealth.org notes, children can sense when a parent becomes annoyed by their antics, which may serve to escalate their anger.

Keep it simple. A direct approach may work to quiet your impressively loud love bug so give it a try. "Shhh! Stop screaming, honey." Demonstrate the appropriate volume with which your wee one should be expressing herself. "It's okay, sweetie. Shhh. We can't be so loud in the library."

Get to the bottom of it. Try to understand why your 2-year-old has broken out in a screaming fit. Is it because you told her she couldn't climb up the slide at the park? As HealthyChildren.org points out, two-year-olds are always testing limits and will react with frustration when you put the kibosh on their fun. Still, once you know what is bothering your kiddo, you can work to resolve the issue. In this case, suggest, "Hey, let's go down the slide, okay?"

Bait and switch. If your tot is still screaming uncontrollably, it's time for distraction, a tactic suggested by KidsHealth.org. "Oh, let's go swing!" or "Look! We can feed the ducks in the pond!" Perhaps another activity will get your toddler-turned-banshee to return to her sweet self.

Move along. A big enough tantrum might be best resolved by leaving the scene of the crime. As AskDrSears.com notes, when your child acts out in a public place you may feel the need to save face. So scoop up your sweetheart and head to the car, home or a more private place where you can attempt to calm her. Of course, don't ever leave her in the car alone.

Tip

It may be tempting to try and rationalize with your 2-year-old when she starts screaming, but as AskDrSears.com points out, many kids this age lack the verbal and cognitive skills for this approach to work effectively.