Temper Tantrums Temper Tantrums

Temper tantrums are a natural phase of development, especially in two and three year olds. The child has developed enough personality to "want or not want something very badly RIGHT NOW...." For the child, their momentary desire is the 'center of their world', and hence, there can be an explosion of tears or screaming. Some children are more willful and stubborn than others and can sustain a tantrum, complete with kicking and screaming, for more than an hour. Eventually, they'll knonk out and fall asleep. Other children, will be less dramatic, but moody, and can become whiny and demanding, especially if they're hungry or overtired.

It's important to remember that when a child is in the midst of a tantrum, he/she can not hear you. You can try moving the child to another room, or if in a restaurant or store, take them outside or in a hallway. This technique can be called "changing channels." The switch in environment might get them to stop crying momentarily.

It is very important for a child having a tantrum to NOT GET THEIR WAY. This reinforces tantrums. If you know what the child is protesting about - remain calm and state that you understand that he/she is angry, but that they cannot have what they want. Try to use very simple sentence structure. You can also give a brief explanation about why they should do what you want them to. .....


A child is throwing a tantrum because they don't want to leave a friend's house. Tell them it's time to go, and that they are too small to walk home alone.

A child is angry because he/she thought they were having pizza, but sees a square pizza with mushrooms, instead of a round cheese pizza. This can really tick off some kids and they'll start whining. Plus the parents will get aggravated that the child is acting so spoiled.

Tell the child that this is the only pizza in your house right now, and that you can not cook another pizza. Then start eating the pizza. Act as if you don't care that the child doesn't like it. If the child continues being "cranky", tell them they are "making too much noise for the dinner table", lift them up and place them away from the table. You want him/her to learn that by tantruming at the table, not only will he/she be removed, but everyone else continues with the family gathering. It is thought that the concept of parental disapproval and being "removed" from the center of activity can act as a fulcrum for discipline.

Some resources for handling tantrums



1,2,3 Magic, by Thomas Phelan