Taming Temper Tantrums

Why Tantrums Occur

At this age, children don’t know the words to describe their emotions, so they act them out instead, which can be embarrassing and frustrating to the parent and to the child. These outbursts also reflect the child’s inner struggle between dependence and independence. They have the entire range of emotions that adults experience, yet they don’t know how to express them. When your child has his feelings hurt, or becomes angry, a tantrum will likely happen. The emotion is felt so strongly that it can overwhelm your child (Hall). He has a tantrum basically because he is falling apart inside and doesn’t know how to manage his feelings.

Anger coming from a parent only frustrates the child more.

Often, he cannot control what is happening to his little body and to his fragile emotions. He needs you to be strong for him. Yelling at your child for crying or screaming teaches him that this is the proper way to deal with frustrations and problems (Hall). It can also frighten your child when you get angry, as well as cause you undue stress.

Abandon the situation.

Tantrums in public are embarrassing, for you and the child. Your child’s feelings need to be the priority. If you are grocery shopping and a tantrum occurs, simply take your child out to the car, and leave your cart in the store (Hall). This will ease your discomfort and will help teach your child that tantrums are not appropriate behavior.

Acknowledge your child’s feelings.

Sometimes just recognizing the emotion for your child may calm her. If she throws a tantrum when you have to leave a friend’s house, simply say, “I realize you are very mad right now.” Not only will that help her understand what she is feeling, it shows her an appropriate way to express or handle those feelings (Bradley). Also, let her know that it is okay to be mad or upset, but that her actions are not acceptable.

Avoid situations that can try your child’s patience. For example, if you take him grocery shopping just before lunch, you are providing a great opportunity for a tantrum because he may be hungry (Sullivan).

Listen to what your child has to say.

Even if you don’t get the specifics, show her that you care about what she is feeling (Sullivan). This will assure her of your love even though she is upset. It will help her learn to talk about her feelings and will equip her with alternative ways of demonstrating her frustration rather than a tantrum.


Bradley, B. “Here’s How: Big Bear Hugs and Other Tantrum Tactics.”

Hall, N. “Taming Temper Tantrums.” 

Sullivan, L. E. “Why Are Toddlers So Temperamental?”