Handling Temper Tantrums

172270537Having a child throw a temper tantrum doesn’t mean that he is “bad” or that you are a “bad” parent.  It’s just another way that your child is communicating to you.  Some may even view the occasional tantrum as a sign of emotional health, in that the child is comfortable expressing his needs—as unpleasant as that may be to those around him at the time.  There are, however, very simple things we can do to prevent the frequency of our children’s tantrums.

This lesson is taken from the Redirecting Children’s Behavior Online Course! Find out more about it here.



Temper Tantrum Prevention

  1.  Know your child.  Learn how your child acts during certain situations.  Knowing your child will help you determine which intervention to use when you child is having a tantrum.
  2. Schedule appropriately.  Over-scheduling leads to tension in our families.  Tension leads to tantrums.
  3.  Look for patterns.  Be proactive instead of reactive.  If your child tends to throw tantrums when you are running errands, arrange to run errands on your own or take her to the park beforehand.
  4. Make agreements ahead of time.  Children do best when they know what their limits are in advance.
  5. Notify your child of changes ahead of time.  This allows your child to have a sense of control.  When plans change at the last minute, some children are likely to throw tantrums because they feel out of control.
  6. Nurture yourself.  When you make time to take care of yourself, you are less likely to overreact.
  7. Promote routines and rituals. Children feel more secure when they know what to expect.

The Seven Types of Temper Tantrums and What to Do When They Occur

Despite all the necessary precautions we take to avoid temper tantrums, we mightstill experience the occasional tantrum, especially from our younger children who have not learned to properly express themselves.  When this happens, we need to look at why they are doing this.  In the book Redirecting Children’s Behavior, by Kathryn Kvols, she descrives the seven types of tantrums and suggestions for what do in each case.

1. The Tired Tantrum

  • Meet the child’s needs.
  • Minimize all talking that may lead to conflict..
  • Take the child to a quiet area for rest or sleep.
  • Hold or rock the child.

2.    The Hungry Tantrum

  • Meet the child’s needs.
  • Minimize all talking that may lead to conflict..
  • Give something to eat as soon as possible, even if it’s not a scheduled snack or mealtime.

3.     The Ill Tantrum

  • Meet the child’s need.
  • Minimize talking.
  • Hold or rock child.
  • Give medical assistance if needed.

4.    The Hypersensitive Tantrum

  • Remove object causing the reaction as soon as possible.
  • Minimize all talking that may lead to conflict.
  • If child’s clothing is too tight, scratchy or hot, take it off.
  • If the child is frustrated by abrupt changes, give advanced warnings or choices.

5.     The Testing Tantrum

  • Do not give in.
  • Bring child to self-quieting place.
  • Leave the room.
  • Do the unexpected.
  • If you are feeling manipulated, stick to the boundaries you have already set.

6.     The Powerless Tantrum

  • Refuse to negotiate until child is calm and respectful.
  • Acknowledge your child’s anger.
  • Do win/win negotiation.
  • Brainstorm solutions together.
  • Give child a sense of power.
  • Fantasize with your child about the unfulfilled desire, if what she wants is impossible.

7.     The Frustrated/Overwhelmed Tantrum

  • Reconsider your expectations.  Are they too high in this situation?
  • Break down the task into smaller more manageable steps (as in homework or chores).
  • Make sure your child know how to follow the directions.

The Mother of All Tantrums

One weeknight when my son was 2, I decided I needed a new book to read and that a short trip to the local mega bookstore was in order.  I postponed dinner till after my short shopping errand. Now if you’ve ever been inside one of these bookstores, you know there is a lot to look at.  I took my time perusing the aisles while my son sat patiently in the stroller.

Patiently, that is, until he laid eyes on the beautiful wooden train set the store had set up on a table in the middle of the children’s section.  How fun, I thought.  I took him out of his stroller so he could go play with the trains, which happened to be his current most favorite things in the world. Everything was chugging along beautifully until

I decided it was time to leave.  After trying unsuccessfully to reason with my child to get back in the stroller, he wriggled out of my grasp and darted off to the other side of the train table. From there ensued the most epic temper tantrum I had ever seen.  Mortified, I picked up my son and dragged him kicking and screaming out of the door.

When I exited the store, I realized that the sun had gone down on us.  What I intended to be a short 15 minute trip to the store had turned into a one hour event.   The reason why his flare-up in the bookstore was so intense was because he was throwing a tired/hungry/testing/powerless/frustrated tantrum all in one giant “mother of all tantrums.” No wonder he was cranky.

There is a happy ending to this story.  When we got home, I got the little guy fed, and afterwards I let him have a little time to play with his train toys before bed.  He was so exhausted that he went right to sleep and was back to his chipper self the next morning. 

And I learned that trips to the bookstore were best when we had full bellies, sufficient rest, and lots of time to play with the trains.

by Pamela Layug Laney