How to Handle Temper Tantrums

As a parent, how to handle temper tantrums may seem like it’s all you think about.

Keep in mind, young kids are still growing and learning how to handle their emotions. Sometimes these emotions can become overwhelming and the results are the child acting out, especially while in quarantine.

Some incidents of acting out can also be caused by negative attention-seeking or even behavioral problems.

Learning how to handle temper tantrums will help de-escalate the situation instead of escalating it further. Learning the common signs can also help in preventing temper tantrums from happening…most of the time.

toddler temper tantrum

What is a Temper Tantrum?

The phrase “throwing a temper tantrum” can cover a variety of behaviors that aren’t typical of children. Temper tantrums are usually associated with aggressive or destructive behavior. Some examples include aggression, defiance, oppositional behavior, holding his or her breath, destroying property, and complete meltdowns.


At What Age Do Temper Tantrums Start?

Every parent fears the terrible twos. While they are definitely terrible, they can start even earlier. Most parents start to notice these meltdowns around 18 months old.

Just from my personal experience, the tantrums get worse after age 2.

As a fair warning, just know that the terrible two’s graduate into the “threenager” stage.

how to handle temper trantrums

Why is my Child Suddenly Misbehaving?

Many people are quick to assume that acting out means the child is just a bad kid. Using this reasoning does more harm than good and only serves to worsen the reasons the child is acting out in the first place.

In order to find a solution to the problem, you have to first know what the problem is. Here are some common causes for a child tantrum.

Situations that push the child to where they can no longer manage their emotions is one of several reasons a child may act out.

Unfortunate instances include abuse at home or being bullied at school.

A child with self-esteem issues may become easily frustrated if he or she is unable to complete certain tasks, resulting in misbehaving.

Young children need attention, especially in early childhood.

If they feel they aren’t getting enough positive attention, they may begin negative behaviors to get the attention they want. Even though the attention will be negative attention, they will still have the eyes of their parents on them.

If you notice your child acting out with one parent and not the other, that is the child’s way of crying for the parent’s attention.

Since most parents experience these toddler tantrums, I think it’s safe to assume that they’re all a part of childhood development.

Sometimes there are reasons beyond the child’s control for their acting out. There are behavioral disorders as well as sensory disorders that may overload your child’s brain, causing them to react in a misbehaving manner.

ADHD and antisocial personality disorder are 2 of the most common problems diagnosed in children with behavioral problems. This is typically for older children and adults but can be found in younger children as well.

dealing with tantrums

Why Does My Child Seek Negative Attention?

As mentioned earlier, a child who doesn’t feel they get enough attention may seek negative attention.

Children don’t have the capacity for manipulation, so while some people may feel their child is acting out to manipulate them, they are really just asking for their needs to be met.

If a child is seeking negative attention, that should be a queue for all adults in the vicinity to stop and ask themselves what kind of positive attention the child needs to get through this.

Use the child’s behavior as a way to figure out what they need from you emotionally, mentally, and physically.

what to do when kids throw a temper tantrum

How do you Stay Calm When a Child is Throwing A Tantrum?

Knowing how to respond to your child’s needs instead of reacting to them will prevent the situation from escalating.

It can be tiresome when your child is acting out but learning how to stay calm will help defuse the problem and get your child back on track.

While in the middle of a tantrum, avoid yelling or threatening your child with taking away toys, spankings, or time out. This will make things worse.

First and foremost, if your child is in a safe place during their tantrum or misbehaving, take care of yourself for a few minutes. It can be difficult to find the time to do so when you are a parent but neglecting yourself only adds to the stress when they misbehave.

Grab something to eat and take a few minutes to just breathe before engaging with your child again. If possible, work with your partner or another close relative to solve the problem.

Self-care is just as important as caring for your child!

Respond to your child instead of responding to the tantrum.

It may not be possible to prevent tantrums completely (although I wish I could prevent tantrums in public), but understanding your child’s needs can help you see the signs before the complete meltdown occurs.

Find out what your child needs from you in that moment and give it to them.

Sometimes, a simple hug and some one-on-one time is all they have been craving. This is especially true if there have been big changes recently, such as a move to a new house or a new baby sibling.

temper tantrum handling tips

How do you Know if Your Child Has Behavioral Problems?

Symptoms vary from child to child, but there are some tell-tale signs your child might have a behavioral disorder.

These behaviors can be normal child behavior, but often more intense and happen more often.

Frequent aggressive behavior is a sign you may want to contact your child’s doctor to look into the problem further, especially if your child seems vindictive or out to get revenge.

Lying and stealing are often associated with these disorders as well.

If you suspect your child may have a behavioral disorder, contact your child’s pediatrician. They will point you in the right direction.

Best Way to Respond When Your Child is Throwing A Temper Tantrum

When children throw tantrums, people are quick to tell others to simply ignore them.

Ignoring a child who is acting out is going to make matters worse.

Often, the child is acting out because a need isn’t being met. They are feeling disconnected and have no other way to show what they are feeling. Hugging your child and connecting with them in the middle of a meltdown reassures them and reconnects them with you.

Punishing your child when they are acting out only seeks to invalidate their feelings. Communicate with your child and discover their needs.

If they are acting out because they are hungry, you might say something like “I see that you’re hungry. Let’s put these toys away and get some lunch.”

Distract your child from the tantrum and refocus their attention on a mutually beneficial solution.

The way you speak to your child becomes their inner voice as they grow up. Voices that are constantly yelling and negative become their inner voice, but so do the voices filled with compassion, understanding, and connection.


If you think handling temper tantrums is rough, just wait until you start potty training. 😉 


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