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How to Handle Your Child’s Temper Tantrums

grumpy little girl making pouting face

My toddler has a wacky superpower: she can whip up a mean temper tantrum. She flips from her usual sweet, doe-eyed demeanor and dons a sour, abrasive attitude at skyrocketing speed. She oscillates between the two extremes effortlessly.

If your child’s temper tantrums are driving you up the wall, fret not. There is absolutely nothing wrong with your child. Temper tantrums are normal and are a part of a child’s development. This article will let you in on why they happen in the first place and show you how to take them in your stride. 

Why do children have temper tantrums?

Temper tantrums are common among children ages 1-3 years (but may spill over to 4 years). Kids between 1-2 mostly throw tantrums when they are unable to articulate their needs. For example, your child wants to play with the yellow ball but they don’t know how to communicate that to you since their language skills are still budding. This frustrates them to the core and they resort to temper tantrums.  

Older toddlers aged 3-4 years, on the other hand, engage in temper tantrums because they want independence and control. They want to call the shots and will engage in heated power struggles when denied the chance. When they feel controlled, they resort to temper tantrums because they do not have the skills to cope with disappointment.

Having said that, it is not unusual for older kids (preschoolers, school-going kids, and teenagers) to get embroiled in temper tantrums. It’s all part of the myriad of surprises snuggled in the parenting package. 

How to handle your child's temper tantrums:

1. Don’t join the tantrum.

Yes, your toddler is kicking up a fuss for the most outrageous reason. They want to scoot off outside and play in the pounding rain. You have tried to explain to them the risks involved but they are in no mood for your lengthy discourse. Your patience is clutching at straws and you are on the verge of lashing out at them. 

No matter how incensed you are, please calm down. Breathe in and out. Count one to ten. Do all it takes to get a grip on your fury. Remember, your child has no mature way of reining in their frustration. Temper tantrums are their way of dealing with disappointment. 

But you? We bet that your coping skills are fully-fledged. You can muffle your anger and keep calm as the tantrum fizzles out. Whatever you do, remain calm and steer clear of your own temper tantrum. 

2. Allow your child to make choices. 

Your toddler's sense of independence is blooming faster they can say "dada." They want to be in control and do stuff on their own. They loathe having you make choices for them. Allow them to savor freedom by letting them make small, simple choices here and there.

You can, for instance, allow your toddler to choose the outfit they want to wear to church. Or allow them to choose the healthy snack they enjoy most. This will greatly enthuse them, help them feel responsible, and likely abate the tantrums. 

3. Anticipate and snuff out the triggers.

No one can fire up a temper tantrum like a sleep-deprived child. They fly off the handle at the slightest provocation. Kids are more likely to engage in temper tantrums if they are sleepy, hungry, uncomfortable, and overly tired among other factors. 

When going out with your child, ensure that they are well fed. If you are going for a long trip, make sure you have snacks at hand. Additionally, ensure that younger kids take their naps without fail and get some downtime if necessary. 

4. Tether your kids to a daily schedule.

Contrary to popular opinion, spontaneity and surprises don’t cut it where kids are concerned. Kids thrive on schedules and daily routines. Knowing what to expect as the day unspools gives them a sense of comfort and security. It rids the fear of the unknown. 

Introducing detours into your kids’ daily routine is likely to throw them for a loop and trigger unsteady emotions. As much as possible, avoid veering off their daily routines, and if you have to, take time to explain to them why it has to happen. 

5. Take advantage of their (short) attention span. 

You can calm your child’s temper tantrum in a flash by removing the focus of their irritation. Is your tot enraged because you won’t allow them to fiddle with your pricey, delicate flower vase? Make a funny face and watch their sour mood morph into hearty giggles at skyrocketing speed. Or grab their favorite storybook and start reading to them. Take advantage of their short attention span and deflect them. 

6. Ignore the tantrum – sometimes.

All is fine and dandy with your child. They are well-fed and rested. From where you sit, they have absolutely no reason to kick up a fuss. Except that they do. They figure that they could get a little more attention from you by throwing a tantrum. Here’s the perfect antidote that works like a charm – don't feed their fuss.

If you sense your child throwing a tantrum for the mere fact that they can throw one, it's best to turn a blind eye on their circus. Sooner or later, it will dawn on them that their tactics are not working and they will drop the act. 

7. Deal with aggressive behavior.

Temper tantrums show up in all shapes and sizes. Some are subtle and easy to pacify while others are like a storm, sweeping everything in their wake. Some kids may get aggressive and start biting, kicking, screaming, and tossing things around.  

When this happens, it’s time to toe the line. Explain to them that physical aggression and putting others in harm’s way is unacceptable. Punish their ill, aggressive behavior by giving them a time out, withdrawing a privilege, or whichever discipline method you deem best. 

8. Arm them with skills.

No one likes to be bossed around, kids included. We all enjoy calling the shots and being in control. For instance, your toddler will want to put on their clothes unaided. While at it, they may try to slip their head through the armhole (instead of the neck hole). When they hit a snag, they may whip up a temper tantrum. 

Or they may be trying to slather toothpaste onto their toothbrush and instead have it blob on the bathroom floor. The exasperation of flopping at tasks they wish to accomplish ticks them off. You can counter these fits by teaching your child the techniques to perform these tasks. 

But before you go on a teaching spree, you need to buckle up and summon your patience. All. Of. It. Teaching young kids skills and chores that are above their age is often not a walk in the park. There will be tears and oodles of frustration involved. But with time they will ace the tasks, much to their delight. This also helps to perk up their confidence and self-esteem. 

9. Don’t take the tantrums personally.

I gleaned many invaluable lessons from my firstborn daughter when she was younger. Whenever she misbehaved and I disciplined her, she would get awfully distressed. But at the same time, sensing she needed comfort from her heartache, she would run into my arms. 

Even though I was the very person causing her distress, it was clear that she didn’t take the discipline as a personal attack or lack of love. She must have known that I loved her, over and above my discipline measures. 

“Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” Mathew 18:2-3

Little wonder Jesus asks us to be like little babes. They love fiercely and forgive easily. They do not keep a record of wrong. You need to keep this in mind because temper tantrums can get grisly. But shake it off and forge ahead. 

You got this, mama! 

Photo Credit: © Getty Images/Bicho_raro

Crosswalk Writer Keren KanyagoKeren Kanyago is a freelance writer for hire and blogger at Parenting Spring. As a wife and mom, she uses her blog to weigh in on pertinent issues around parenting, marriage, the Christian Faith, and an assortment of other lifestyle topics. She holds a degree in mass communication with a specialty in print media. You can shoot her an email at kerenkanyago@gmail.com




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