Temper tantrums are a normal part of growing up, but that does not mean they are easy. Children between 1 and 4 are prone to tantrums, and they are as hard on the toddler as they are on the parents.

This phase does not last long, but learning how to deal with it can make the toddler years a little smoother.

Why Do Tantrums Happen?

Tantrums are how toddlers express frustration. Anything can set off a tantrum: hunger, illness, tiredness. Some children have trouble with transitioning or changes in routine.

While it may not always feel like it, toddlers do not have tantrums on purpose, but they can become a learned behavior. If you reward tantrums, they are likely to continue well beyond toddlerhood.

toddler having a temper tantrum


New Ways of Thinking

The thinking behind how we approach tantrums has changed. Decades ago, parents were told to ignore their child's tantrums to avoid spoiling them.

Today, the recommended approach is different. When a child throws a tantrum, it is a sign that they need help coping with overwhelming emotions, and it is the caregiver's job to help.

little girl having a tantrum at the grocery store


Set Limits

One way to handle tantrums is to set limits. One essential limit to instill in your child is that physical violence is never okay, but getting them to follow this rule will take some time.

If your toddler tends to kick or hit during tantrums, tell them that it is not okay to hurt anyone. Do this every time and, eventually, the child will listen because, ultimately, they want your approval.

mother holding angry little boy's fists


Do Not Yell

It is important to remember that you are the adult and must stay in control. Part of doing that is not yelling. If you yell at them, they will only yell back.

Remember that they are frustrated and trying to handle big emotions, so it helps to keep yourself calm. If you do yell, apologize, take some deep breaths, and model the behavior you wish to see from your child.

father firmly taking tablet away from child


Let Them Be Angry

It is okay to let your child be angry, just make sure you keep an eye on them so they do not injure themselves or damage anything.

Stay close and offer support, but allow them to express their emotions and regain self-control. The goal is teach your child how to vent in a healthy way.

little girl upset lying on kitchen floor


Choose Your Battles

Not everything is worth a fight. Sometimes, it's a good idea togive a little.

Bribing your child by telling them that you will buy them or give them something if they stop is not helpful, but letting them wear a mismatching outfit or choose the song that is playing in the car might be worth the peace and quiet. Use this strategy sparingly, though, to avoid reinforcing the behavior.

little girl choosing her clothing


Offer Help and a Hug

Sometimes, your toddler may need help calming down, and there are a few ways you can help diffuse the situation. If your toddler is frustrated because they cannot do something like put on their shoes, stop what you are doing and help them do it themselves, so they can feel like they learned something new.

If they want to play with a toy with dead batteries, put new batteries in and show them it works. When all else fails, give them a big hug. Pull them close and hold them tight to help them feel safe and secure.

Mother hugging crying little girl


Preventing Tantrums

There are a few ways to prevent tantrums before they start, but none of them are foolproof.

Children feel comfortable with routine, so stick to a regular schedule as much as possible, including meals and naps. Make sure your child gets enough sleep, and plan ahead so you do not have appointments when it is time for your child to nap. Help your child gain a sense of control by letting them choose their clothes or what fruit to have with lunch. Always praise good behavior, and avoid anything non-essential that you know is likely to trigger a tantrum.

mother and son making lunches


Use Time Outs Selectively

Time-outs are a popular way to deal with tantrums, but use them sparingly or they will stop working.

Choose a boring place, like the hallway or a corner of the living room, and wait for your child to calm down. A good rule of thumb is to give your child one minute in time out for every year of age, but make sure you stick with it. Do not allow your child to wander. When they calm down, talk about the reason for the time out briefly, and then go back to your normal day.

little boy in time out in corner


Professional Help

Tantrums are normal, but there may come a time when your child needs professional help.

If tantrums worsen after age 4, if your child holds their breath until they faint, or if they physically harm themself or others during a tantrum, talk to their pediatrician about further steps you can take.

little boy working with a therapist


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