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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6 thoughts on “Temper Tantrums”

  1. So, my daughter is 8 months old, and she just recently started throwing little fits. Not to the degree of tantrum, but she yells at me and gets angry and screams when I take something away from her or when she wants my attention. Is this the beginning stages of temper tantrums? Is how I respond now going to set a foundation for future, more severe tantrums? Or is this normal? What would be the best way for me to respond to her right now, given that she does not understand words yet? Any suggestions would be helpful 🙂

  2. Brandy Perry, yes, that is the beginnings of temper tantrums. And yes, what you do now will impact how she acts in the future. The great news is that since she is starting young, you will be able to teach young, and they learn easier when young.Be sure to read the tantrum posts on this blog. The most important thing with tantrums is to not give in. So don't give her what she wants when it fit is thrown. Only say no when you mean it. Distract. Teacher her other ways to communicate.

  3. Hi! My daughter is 8.5 months old. She is throwing tantrums at meal time. She will usually refuse to eat and only wants her bottle-she continuously signs for "milk." This has been going on about 5 days to a week. She pushes my hands away, turns her head, and screams. We are doing sign language with her and it does not seem to be helping much. She will sign for "milk" but still screams.Do I not giver he the bottle until she eats? Do I make her skip the bottle once or twice, will it harm her if I do? Do I ignore the tantrum at this age? She has also started yelling at us when she wants our attention; I try to say "daddy" or "mama" and sign for please, etc but it does not seem to have an impact…She is cutting her two top teeth right now, could that be it? She cut the bottom two at 6 months and we did not have any of these problems; she refused to nurse at that time. This time around she is refusing solids-which she usually loves! Also, we started CIO and took away the paci about 3 weeks ago. It went wonderfully, 8 minutes and she was sound asleep, then after a few days only 4 minutes, etc. Now, suddenly getting her to sleep is a long process/fight. So could it all be related? I am feeling a little desperate because I did not think I would have this problem with her, she was/is such a good eater and sleeper! Any thoughts or suggestions would be so appreciated! =)Thanks

  4. I would guess it is either sickness or teething. Any time a child has a total personality make-over, it is pretty safe to assume the child isn't feeling well.I always gave milk before the meal, so I would hold her in your lap and feed her the milk, then move to the highchair. At her age, if she is screaming, let's say she wants to be done, I would say, "we don't scream. You say, "All Done" (sign and say). Then sign it for her, tell her good job, and get her out of the high chair.

  5. Tell me what to do for a 4 year old who throws a tantrum while in isolation. He gets a logical consequence for disobeying. Then he screams because he's upset. So I send him to isolation to calm down. In isolation I get bloody murder screams, kicking, throwing toys, the whole bit. I have the feeling it's due to me previously losing my patience when he would start and I would employ consequences for having fits. It never worked. But he's never escalated thus bad. Do I just let him have his fit and ignore it or what?

  6. Hi again- still having the same issues with my 4 year old (see comment above). I guess it's gotten slightly better but not at all where I'd like to be. I've taken a more "caring" approach. He disobeys (which I feel is frequent) I take away a privelege. He cries loudly. I say I'm sorry I know you are sad, I would be too. I might even offer a hug if he'd like explaining to make better choices. Sometimes this goes smoothly. He accepts the consequence and we move on. Other days his crying escalates to screaming and I've been saying its ok to cry but not to scream or throw a fit. But it doesn't always work. Usually he ends up screaming and looking at me directly in the eye while throwing his body around. This looks like he's purposefully trying to get under my skin not losing control. At this point I calmly tell him he can't act like that in front of others and send him to his room. Then he loses control cause now he's really upset. I'm just having such a hard time with this. If I could employ a consequence and he would just get upset without getting so LOUD or throw a fit I'd be happy! But when he's like this A) in public it's embarrassing, after all he's not 2 anymore and B) at home or in the car I can ignore easily but his 2 year old sister can't. She usually startyelling "stop'! I can't hear!!" and now I've got 2 meltdowns going!!


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