2 1/2 Year Old, Temper Tantrums... HELP!

Updated on March 26, 2009
D.O. asks from Fairfield, CA
14 answers

My son is getting into throwing temper tantrums. He is 2 1/2 and the light of my eyes. I just love this little guy so much and it frustrates me so much to see him get so worked up and react to his frustrations the way he does. We are expecting another baby in June and we are hoping this is just a phase. But I am wondering how I could handle this behavior better? Any advice?

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So What Happened?

Thank you so much for all of the excellent advice. I have been reading through all of these and I have taken a few tips and my husband and I are trying a few new things... we are not paying attention to the tantrums, if he starts we will either remove him from the room and walk away (i.e. the dinner table to another room so he doesn't try to throw his plate, napkin or cup). The first time we did this he stopped completely, looked around and began to play with his dump truck. We also try to divert the tantrum, when we see it coming on we distract him with something else. So just these subtle changes have helped us to not get so frustrated and to know that so many other parents are going through the same thing it helps us to not get frustrated and be more patient. Thanks again! This is a great resource, I am sure you will hear more from me with the next milestone.

More Answers


answers from San Francisco on

My son is the king of tantrums! The way I handle it is to stay calm above all (even if it is only on the outside) offer to help or show him how to do something, or calmly explain (once) why he can't have his way then ignore the rest of the tantrum. (It's a great time to get stuff done around the house by the way!) Since I can't understand what he is saying when he is crying anyway, the rule is he has to calm down and ask again before I will respond to his request. IMHO, modeling the appropriate emotional response is the best thing one can do for a tantruming toddler because how else will they learn what is a big deal and what isn't? It's not always easy for sure! But, take a deep breath - it'll pass!

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answers from San Francisco on


I am in a mom's book group that reads different toddler books and then get together to discuss them. THis is often a topic of discussion so we read a wonderful book called The Emotional Life of the Toddler. It had examples of scenarios and how to handle them. My son like yours has only just started having Tantrums and he is 2 and three months. I think part of what it happening is more likely that he wants to have autonomy and do things for himself and it is frustrating to not be able to do everything he wants. I am trying to be patient, and also help him to try to explain what he wants.

I would get that book and even if you only have time to skim it, it will help.

Good luck,




answers from San Francisco on

I like the book The Happiest Toddler on the Block, by Dr. Karp. I checked it out of the library and thought it was worth the read. I got some good tips about tantrums and dealing with a new sibling. Hope it helps!




answers from San Francisco on

I am a mom of 3, and also have a 2 1/2 year old presently. I have read it all, and tried it all, and what really works is Love and Logic. Go to Loveandlogic.com to check it out.

She threw a tantrum yesterday, and I lovingly picked her up and placed her in her crib and let her know that I loved her and she could come out when her voice was calm and nice like mine. Eventually she says, "mommy i'm ready to come out" in a nice voice, and I happily embrace her and let her know I'm glad she's back. The consequences do the teaching, and I never have to get upset or be the bad guy. I also notice that the more calm I stay through everything, my kids follow that example. I'm teaching them that they don't have to be reactive or get upset. They can use their words and solve the problem.

So I love it! I am a much happier parent than ever before.
Good luck!



answers from San Francisco on

Hi D.!

Rest assured, this is totally normal. I agree that he's probably looking for attention and this is a sure-fire way to get it. So, rather than reward him for negative behavior (by giving him attention and continuing to interact with him by telling him to stop etc.), just remove yourself from the situation. I put my son in time-out for 2 minutes....and he calms down immediately. Then, we're able to talk about what happened and I help him see how he could use words to tell me how he felt etc....and I help him figure out how he felt. I something recently that helped me deal with my son when he gets into tantrum mode that I'll share with you in case it helps. Basically, it boils down to this - little ones get angry, frustrated etc......but have no idea how to handle it and don't have the vocab etc. to communicate their feelings. So, they are looking to their parents to help them through this. Once a kid is in tantrum mode, they really don't even remember what the tantrum is about....they are now just angry and frustrated and don't know how to deal with it. So, what I do with my son is help lead him through the emotions and how to handle them...using the time out technique above. First, you have to validate their feelings. I'll ask him if he's angry at Mommy because he wanted to do "X" and Mommy said no....this helps him put a "tag" on the emotion and understand it. Then I tell him that I understand that he is angry (so he knows it is OK to get angry), explain once more why I said no and tell him that if he doesn't stop his tantrum by the time I count to 5, then he'll go to time out. I then slowly count to 5 out loud. If he's not calm by 5, then he goes to time out. I put him in the same spot (the naughty spot as the super nanny calls it), tell him why he is there, and then turn around and leave. Two minutes later (he's 2 - so 1 minute of time out per year of age), I go back in. He's totally calm and we have the same conversation that we had before the time out again....this time he's calm and able to listen. I help him see how he could have used words to communicate his feelings and he apologizes and we hug. What I found is that the first few times, I always made it to 5 and we did time out. But, as he's getting better at handling the emotion, the number of times I get to 5 is decreasing and he's getting better at calming himself down. We still have the same conversation about how to use words to tell me how he's feeling and I make sure he understands my reasoning for saying no...so that he can begin to make that connection himself too. Keeping yourself calm throughout the process is key. If he's trying to get a rise out of you by mis-behaving and trying to get attention, remaining calm will disarm him and he'll realize his technique isn't working. Consistency is also key - make sure you handle the situation the same whether at home, the store, or a friend's house.

I hope that helps! As someone else noted, it will likely get a little worse when #2 arrives...so lay the groundwork now and maintain the technique after #2 arrives. But remember to be calm (which will be really hard when you're exhausted!).



answers from San Francisco on

I think all 2 1/2 year olds throw tantrums, mine started the minute he turned 2, I think on the night of their birthdays a group of other 2 year olds visit them in the middle of the night with the 2 year old "handbook" basically stating they will "fall out" without notice and their new favorite words are "no" and "I don't wanna".

Here is what works with my son. If he starts to throw a tantrum, I either put him in time out or let him throw it on the floor but I always make sure to tell him to let me know when he's done so we can talk about it. and than about every minute or so after I walk away, I ask him if he's "done yet". Until he sort of calms down and than I sit him on my lap and ask him what's the problem? He'll tell me and than I'll either tell him why he can't do it, or explain to him that if he had calmly asked me say to play outside instead of throwing a fit, I would have gladly let him go, but instead he wasted time by throwing a fit about it.

He usually does okay with it. I try to get him to realize that talking about things and asking in a nice way usually works better than demanding or throwing fits when he can't have his way.

So far so good........good luck.


Oh and PS, it might get worse when the new baby gets here. I also have a 1 year old who is now walking and needs a little extra attention because he's determined to knock himself out on a wall corner........and the tantrums seem to have gotten a little worse since than. Just a forwarning.

I also know that when the tantrums become "regular" that he is feeling like he needs a little extra mommy time, so I try to get that in for him. Even if it means keeping him up a little later on a "school night" to play a game or read some books or just to cuddle.



answers from Sacramento on

Try reading the book, Spirited Children. It helped me SO much!


answers from Fresno on

Yes, it's a phase. Both of my kids went through it, one worse than the other. If he is just now starting to throw tantrums, count yourself lucky! Even though these tantrums are mystifying and frustrating to watch as a parent, there is no way to get around it. For most kids, they are so curious about the world around them at this age, and are really starting to notice what everyone around them is doing. They want to try everything they see, and they are just not coordinated enough to do everything! It's really frustrating for them, but this frustration is what pushes them to try again and get better, and eventually accomplish the task. At the same time, they are becoming independent, and so being told what to do all day every day is frustrating to them. They want to eat ice cream for lunch, and it's absolutely infuriating when Mommy tells them no! Or, they want to keep playing, but it's naptime and that's infuriating too! Well - the only way they learn how normal people act is for their parents to guide them. They won't always like it, but it's necessary.

What I learned with my two girls was that in general, when they had a tantrum about something that just seemed ridiculous, it was probably just the straw that broke the camel's back. At that point, there is absolutely nothing you can do to stop the tantrum because it is caused by built-up frustration. What I would do is calmly pick up the child and put them in the middle of their room and tell them, "When you are feeling better you can come out." and then leave the room. Sometimes the child felt better in 2 minutes - sometimes it took 20 minutes. Sometimes they fell asleep in the middle of the floor, or decided to play with their toys instead of coming out. The point is, they need some time to get rid of their frustration and get themselves under control. My almost-4 year old will actually go to her room on her own now when she is feeling frustrated - she'll start to get really mad and then announce, "I need to go to my room until I feel better!" - so it seems to work for us. =)

Hang in there - the terrible twos will be over before you know it!



answers from Sacramento on

This is very normal for his age. In fact, he may continue to throw tantrums here and there for the next couple of years. My son just turned four and his little temper will still flare up out of control every couple of months. I have learned a few things about keeping my son in check. Try to keep your son well fed (plenty of healthy little snacks throughout the day if needed), well-rested and well-exercised. Boys have a lot of raw energy, and if they cannot communicate and/or release their energy by running, biking, throwing or kicking a ball around, they get very frustrated. And always give him big kudos when he's behaving well...just good reinforcement! Good luck, hang in there.



answers from Salinas on

my daughter did the same thing when i was expecting, and when the baby was first born. They are starting to wane now although not completely and my baby is 4 and a half months old... its a process... and we discuss other ways to express our feelings ALOT!



answers from San Francisco on

Hi D.,

How well does he sleep. That is usually a sign of poor sleep. They say one out of 3 children have sleep depravation. That makes you very angry and hostile.

When my granddaugher comes to see me sometimes she is real tired and moody. I have her sleep on a magnetic pad when she stays with me and I see the difference in her behavior.

If you would like more info let me know.

Have a great week.

N. Marie



answers from San Francisco on

Don't pay it too much attention.



answers from Sacramento on

Hi D.,
If your son has never shown any type of tantrum behavior before now, it is my guess it is his way of getting attention because of your pending new arrival. I'm sure you have talked to him in length about the new baby coming etc. and more than likely he is already feeling a bit nervous about it. Before your pregnancy, he got all the attention and now your growing tummy is the attention getter.

It is my experience that kids just don't all of a sudden start doing this. Most tantrum throwers start or show this kind of behavior before 2 1/2. He is still your perfect little guy, but just trying to deal with sharing you. Don't sweat it. Just do your best to assure him he will always be special because he was first born.

Think about it. How many times do people now go straight for your tummy, touch it and start asking questions about when you are due etc. Your son is smart and picks up on all that stuff.

Congratulations and Good luck to you and your growing family. Just remember the next time you see an expectant mommy with a child in tow talk to the child first. I can only imagine at times they must feel invisible.




answers from Sacramento on

Hey D.,
That can be frustrating. Have you tried setting consequences for his tantrums? I know that some parents believe their child should be able to express themselves in this way but I don't agree. I believe we need to teach our children how to cope in the world in a way that will be helpful to them in the long run. I would encourage him to tell you what is bothering him using the words that he does have. But I would give an immediate time out for a tantrum. Let him know that type of behavior is not ok with you. No extra attention when he throws one just quickly to the time out.
Hope this is helpful.

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