Temper Tantrums


sometimes you just have to smile to get yourself through

Something great about the book Parenting the Strong-Willed Child (affiliate link) is that there is a chapter full of advice on specific behavior problems. I love that about this book. The first area we will talk about is temper tantrums.


Temper tantrums will happen at some point, but there are plenty of things you can do to minimize the frequency and severity of temper tantrums. 


  • Praise Appropriate BehaviorWe have all heard that forever. Focus on positive, praise when doing right things…it really does work (and it works for husbands too!).
  • Regular Meals and Regular SleepI think we are all subscribers to the importance of regular eating and sleeping habits. Having these routine things consistently greatly helps avoid tantrums.
  • Watch for a PatternIf you think you are doing everything right and yet your child has tantrums, track when and where they happen so you can see a pattern. Then, rearrange things if possible to decrease likelihood of a tantrum. Does it happen right before meals? If so, try moving meals a bit earlier or giving a snack between meals. 
  • Intervene Before it EscalatesThis isn’t always the best step, but for some children and some situations, you stepping in before it gets too bad will help. You might start to see a tantrum before your child actually snaps into one, in which case you can change scenery or even coach your child through coping (take a deep breath, relax…). Most children of any age can easily have their mind directed elsewhere. “No, you may not have a piece of candy. Did you see that purple balloon over there?!?!?” The more experienced of a mom you get, the more tricks you will have up your sleeve for distracting disgruntled children.
  • Ignore if Done for AttentionWhen the child is having a tantrum for attention, ignore it and the child will stop (well, most will). Be sure you keep your child in eye sight, though. I remember Brayden’s first (and only) time throwing himself on the ground for a tantrum. I use the term “throwing” lightly because he ever-so-gingerly placed himself on the floor in order to emphasize how mad he was. We were in a store and he wanted something…I can’t remember what…and he place himself on the ground. I was pretty amused. He must have decided to chance it to see if I would balk under public pressure. Oh no, not me. I tried to keep my smile off my face as I stood a few feet off and pretended to look everywhere but at him. He didn’t last very long.
  • Make Sure Tantrum Doesn’t WorkI think this should be right up there with regular meals a regular sleep so far as importance goes for truly avoiding tantrums. If you give in after five minutes of a tantrum, guess what? Your child will be sure to go at least five minutes the next time. You don’t say “no” or give an instruction unless you intend to see it through to the end–even if a tantrum follows, and even if you are in public. Did your child ask for something at the grocery store? Do not say no unless you intent to follow through with no. Don’t say no hoping your child will calmly reply, “okay,” but change your mind if a tantrum follows. 
  • Relax and Stay CalmYour demeanor has such a powerful impact on the mood of your children. If you lose your cool, your child will not decide to shape up. Also, it is pretty hypocritical to have your own tantrum in response to your child’s tantrum. If it isn’t okay for a 2 year old to have a tantrum, then it is definitely not okay for an adult to have a tantrum.
  • Acknowledge Feelings After Tantrum is Over“I know you are upset because you wanted candy. I know it makes you sad that you can’t…” 
  • Ask Children Over Four What They Could Have DoneFor children four and older, ask them what they think they could have done differently. What was a better option than throwing a fit?
  • Help Child Express HimselfA lot of tantrums come because the child is incapable of expressing his feelings. Teaching sign language is a great way to help the non-verbal crowd. For those who can speak, you need to teach them a vocabulary to be able to express themselves. My favorite activity for doing this is Teaching Emotions.

These are some concrete, real tips that really work for tantrums. Keep your child rested and fed. Teach your child to express himself without fits. Make sure the tantrum doesn’t work for the child–those are the top three  key tips to focus on before adding the other tips (in my opinion). 


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