Help! 13-Month Old Throwing Tantrums

Updated on July 23, 2009
C.J. asks from Long Beach, CA
19 answers

Hello Everyone,
I need your help, comments, similar stories - whatever you've got. My 13-month old son has just started throwing major temper tantrums. He screams at the top of his lungs at the most minor of things. His screams are ear-piercing and we are at the end of our ropes. We have tried giving him Tylenol in case it has to do with teething, letting him nap as long as he needs whenever he needs it, varying his activities so he doesn't get bored, etc. But EVERYTHING causes a tantrum - mealtime, diaper changes, talking to him, not talking to him, picking him up, putting him down. He's in perfect health from what the doctor tells us. She did share that he was cutting two molars last month. But if this is teething, it's different from any teething he's done in the past. This seems incredibly early to be tantrums. There is nothing new going on at home and we're with him all the time - no outside child care. He gets stimulation through learning sign language and doing flash cards. Other than that, it's good ole play time. We do occasional play dates as well and he has ample interaction with both sides of the family. Any thoughts? Anyone been through this at this age and know what to do? Help!

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answers from Los Angeles on for allergy eliminations. Most of the physical and mental problems we have are allergy related. for books on prodigy & advanced children and indigo & crystal children. Most of the children born today are advanced and require more from their parents.

Be well.


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answers from Los Angeles on

Hi, You mentioned sign language. I know some little ones who have the DVD of the sign language going on over and over in the background as they play. It does help.
After spending time at such a home, I learned a few signs myself and then when a grandfather ,with a new cane, arrived at the home, I could tell the one year old that grand pa had a problem. It was like a conversation without words. This works with animals too sometimes.

Anyway tantrums do stop......

B. v. O.

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answers from San Diego on

We had a brief spate of them at about a year (combined occasionally with hitting and biting).

Like you we did the full med checkout thing first, life check out, nope. No durn good reason. Well plenty of good reasons (he didn't WANT to, and he didn't want to with every fiber of his being...or he was pure and simple MAD).

So we started timeouts. Unilateral for hitting/biting/kicking or in any other way hurting us, himself or someone else. Scooped up and put in his crib. The words "No Hitting" or "No whatever" and then walk away. (His room was in full view of the kitchen...I'd usually stay in sight...but be pointedly doing something else aside from paying attention to him)

After a minute or so I'd go back in very kindly and pat him on the back, telling him that he was on time out for X, and that I'd LOVE to get him out of the crib but that he needed to calm down first. If my being there was making it worse, I'd leave (still in sight but not in his room), until the pitch changed...go back in...repeat as necessary until he calmed down. If he calmed down the first time, I would usually stay. No matter what once he was calmed, I'd then repeat WHY he was on timeout. And then I started a process that was to last YEARS.

In our house, timeouts aren't punishments. They're a time to cool off, regain your temper, and let your mind start working again. I go on timeouts (thank god), my son goes on timeouts, daddy SOMETIMES does (sigh). Before my son can come off of timeout he has to be able to tell me WHY he was there in the first place, WHAT made him so upset, & some IDEAS about what he could do next time.

At was all me. He'd be in his crib (calmed down) & I'd lead him through the discussion. I was never mad (if I was about to choke someone, I wouldn't go in until *I* was calm ;) These discussions gave him the pattern as well as the words to help desribe what was going on. I have to admit I was reeeeally surprised when he started answering my questions. Sometimes what he was infuriated at was something TOTALLY different from what I had thought.

We never did the minute per year of age thing. Probably because he DID start so young. We did what felt right. Sometimes he was in his crib for 5 minutes, sometimes 15. Sometimes we coaxed him into calming, other times we guilt tripped with a vengance "You HURT so and so, you HURT them" with a sad and disappointed voice/face that would start off round of tears. It was all highly subjective, and was dependant mostly on how we judged his tone & actions.

The idea, of course, was to teach him to begin to self monitor, to have empathy, to begin to learn calm himself down -with and without help-, and to THINK.

By 3 he was sending himself on timeouts (usually to the stairs). At 7, he looks at me with a particularly loathsome scowl, takes a deep breath and says he needs some private time. (ahem, at 5 he decided that he deserved the right that we both have, that a person is not "interrupted" on their timeouts...but is allowed peace and privacy. We figured that was only fair. (Guilty admission, I sooooo broke that rule and had to be reminded of it more than once. "Oops...sorry're right. Come out when you're ready." Turns out, mummy wants to give hugs and "talk 'bout it" sooner than he does.)

Like I said...our tantrum time at one-ish was a spate, fairly short lived. And we skipped the terrible twos entirely (love bug at 2), but got the terrible 3's with a vengeance. :P Ugh.

For our son, one thing that really helped was having him help, (cooking, laundry, cleaning, the straps on his carseat, whatever). Another was giving him choices...letting him feel involved in decisions. He's an independent little cuss, who REALLY knows his own mind. "What would you like for breakfast?", "What would you like to do this afternoon?" were questions that frequently got definitive answers. And while he wouldn't usually ask for anything more exotic than scrambled eggs for breakfast, if he asked for broccoli and we had it...why not? He didn't always (ha! not doing that) get what he wanted...but whenever it didn't matter...I'd ask those open ended questions. (When it DID matter, I did NOT ask...I did the "We're going to Nana's in 10 minutes, 5 minutes, 2 minutes, okay it's time to get our shoes on", "We're goiong to be taking a bath in 5 minutes, 2 minutes, okay it's bathtime!" warnings to let him know in advance that a change was coming & to give him time to switch gears.

I guess, to sum up; Yeah we totally did early tantrums. What we did was;
- Timeouts
- Let him be independant when he could
- Let him help with everyday chores (cooking, cleaning, etc.)
- Giving him choices about what he wanted
- Giving him warnings about the inevitable (even if it was icecream ;)

Good Luck :)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

It sounds like your 13 month old is having some really big feelings, which is totally normal. When you think about how out of control they really are in their lives, and all of the changes that they go through within the first few years, it's easy to see how they may be overwhelmed, frustrated, etc. It's a good thing that he is expressing his big feelings and it's our job as parents to teach them eventually how to express them appropriately. But that's a process that takes a long time! And I'd beware of any quick fixes - think about the underlying message it is sending your child. To "nip tantrums in the bud" might really be telling your child that it's not okay for them to express their big feelings... not okay to get really mad, sad, frustrated, etc. He is just starting out on his journey of emotional learning - what do you want him to know about his emotions? What kind of an environment do you want to create for him and his emotional well-being.
The most profound way that a child learns something from his/her parents is by the parent modeling it. Children will do what we do, and say what we say, but only by external compliance will they do what we say. And that's not the place of deeper learning I think we all want for our children.

I believe that children need our help when they are in this "out of control" state of tantrumming. There is a lot of current brain development research on the subject (PLEASE check out books like The Sceince of Parenting by Margot Sunderland and Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Cohn). So I think they need us to move closer to them rather than further away when they are having their big feelings. They need to know that you hear them, that you understand, and that you are going to stay with them until they are done. This does NOT mean giving in to what they want! But it does mean letting them know that while they aren't free to, let's say... watch another tv show, they are free to FEEL any way they do about it, and that you'll understand and stay with them.

He's moving into a stage of individuation and separation. He's working it out that he is separate from you... it's entirely developmentally appropriate. Please don't punish him for it, and you'll see that it will pass in it's own time. What kind of relationship do you want to build with him in the long run?

That's my early morning, no-coffee, 2 cents. Those books are 2 of my very favorite and hold a tremendous amount of well-researched information, and share it much better than I probably just did.

Good luck! I know it's hard and frustrating for us too. It's part of the job we didn't know we were necessarily signing up for!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

My 14 month old throws little tantrums too. That aren't too bad (I usually have to stop myself from laughing.) But we just say, "Oh, you're throwing a tantrum, I guess we better leave you alone." From there we ignore him and he stops pretty quickly. Good luck, every child is different of course, but whatever you do don't give in to it. Then he knows it works!

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answers from Los Angeles on

Hi C.:
Excellent response from Dani L. She's got A good level head on her shoulders and makes perfect sense. I'll simply add: You don't have to rule with an IRON FIST,to gain the respect, admiration or love of others.I wish you and your darlin son the best.J. M

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

C. I am only laughing because I am in the same boat with my 13 month old little girl. You wanna hang out sometime? I'm sure its easier to watch another child throw a tantrum.

I have been teaching her sign language and she understands and signs back some. When I sign diaper it is a full chase through the house, WWF smackdown to get it done. I usually gently pin her down and attack her with raspberries on the belly and armpits until she can't help but laugh and relax a bit. It is still a huge challenge.

Often when I tell her now she will let out this annoying cry/whimper thing that gets under my skin. If I try to remove her from a dangerous situation she goes limp and then starts kicking and screaming. At that point I either hold her close letting her cry or if the environment allows I let her get it out while staying sort of neutral to her behavior. It is so hard and frustrating, but I hear it will pass.

Its their time to test, and boy do they ever! So my heart goes out to you. You can always write me if you wanna know what I do in particular situations. This is why I love this site. WE ARE NOT ALONE. :)

Hugs and hang in there,

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

I have to tell you an amusing story. My daughter who is 19 at this time threw a major hissy fit one day in the kitchen when she was 2 years old. I happen to be standing at the sink and took the sprayer at the sink and sprayed her with it. She was so shocked it shut her up and she didn't have another one. I think you need to do something shocking that won't hurt them and see what happens.

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answers from Los Angeles on

well, cutting molars is different than the other teeth. For most kids it seems to be the most painful by far. It was in my son's case. Hopefully that is the source of his screaming. My son started throwing tantrums at that age too though. In my opinion it should be terrible ones, not twos, because everyone I've talked to experiences tantrums before two : ) When my son was around 15 months and we could tell that he started to really understand that we would tell him no about something and then he would do it anyway (being told no was a source of tantrums) we started time outs for a minute. While he would typically cry during the first part of the minute, by the end he would be calm and come and give us a hug when we let him get up. The break he gets from his time outs helps him to calm himself down and know that we don't tolerate screaming fits. Goodluck!



answers from Los Angeles on

Hi C., Being a parent is the hardest thing I've ever done. Each one is different, and can go from a joy to a terror. Maybe we should get secrets from Al Queda with the tapes of these tantrums, sorry but it can be awful...
You are doing everything right, and still it's so frustrating because he seems unhappy. I bet in a few weeks he will become your happy little boy. no pain, no reason, until you know what it is, and he can't tell you yet, just keep him safe. Go out less with him in public, and have a date night w/ your husband... for sanity sakes!!!
no real great advice for your parenting, but this is a good source of outlet and information. Where's the handbook on parenting??? you'll make it through this and wonder where the time went. Later you can tell your son what a little sh*t he was and everyone will laugh.
good luck, Deb



answers from Los Angeles on

Honestly it sounds normal to me. Its quite possible that his understanding of language has out reached his verbal abilities and he's getting frustrated. Keep up with the signing as well as speaking words and encourage him to use it with you. (You sign to him and he repeats it back, for everything.)

Tantrums were very common for my ADHD son at that age. (He wasn't officially diagnosed until he was 5.) He understood nearly everything, but had very little ability to verbally respond. So 90% of the time the only response that would work was "show me". Having his showing me what he wanted or needed changed his response from a verbal one to a physical one.

best wishes.



answers from Las Vegas on

My daughter is now 19 months, but started throwing tantrums around a year. They've subsided considerably. When they started, I did a little research. Children only have limited ways to communicate..that is one of them. I chose to look at it as no big deal. I would approach it several ways, basically, trying to break her pattern with something quirky instead of being plagued by the fit.

Sometimes, I just pick her up in the middle of the fit and start spinning her around in play (then sometimes, she just starts to laugh). Sometimes I playfully set her on the carpet or couch to have her fit and would say "Don't hurt yourself". Other times, I'd ignore it so she would know that fits are not an avenue that will yield her what she wants, saying "No, you're a big girl", in a nice caring tone. I generally, was playful about it, having a silly sense of humor about it, then the fits got fewer and for a less amount of time. Pretty soon, she was laughing right after a short fit and life would go on. I grew up in a pretty intense household so my goal has been to have a light home with lots of laughter. She is very well behaved, the fits have pretty much ceased, she is full of laughter, is very friendly and everyone tells me how good she is. I also give her plenty of outlets, like we sing karaoke together into the microphone, we dance together to Earth, Wind and Fire and run around playing kickball in the house. Toddlers maybe beginning to gain a lot of intense energy and just need an outlet, like we all do.

My theory is that, if you make it a problem, it becomes a problem. Whatever you focus on becomes bigger. If you have a lighthearted attitude and teach your children that we're all human and even adults have fits...and how silly and ineffective they are! That they will learn to laugh at themselves and communicate in a more effective, healthy manner. I also give her lots of praise for any accomplishment.

Also, that is a big time for teething. Recognizing that is great empathy. My daughter pretty much has all her teeth in now so maybe there is some coorelation.

Hope this helps.



answers from San Diego on

Hi C., Sounds to me like your son has a very good childhood. Some kids start to go through the tatrum stage, if you allow it, we had a no tatrum policy in our house, because they are nothing less than a fit of range child style, I got a child in my daycare who is 15 months, he was 12 months when he started with me, he was a tatrum thrower, but his parents gave him what he wanted so he learned tatrums work, well not here, each time he threw himself on the floor, I picked him up put him in his playpen, and he stayed there till he was done, I won't tollerate tatrums, well he's learning and he spends less time in the playpen, with our 3, our first child never threw a tatrum our second one tried once, my husband have gave him one swat (not a spanking) just one swat that was his first and last tatrum, he was under a year old, our third our daughter was about 15
months old when she tried the tatrum card, same thing daddy gave her one good swat (again no spanking) just one swat and that was her first and last. we believed in niping things in the bud early, and we did, we talked about many things when we decided to start a family. We held to everything we decided on when our kids were growing through the infant and toddler stages. Nip this in the bud now so you wont have issues later. J.



answers from Los Angeles on

temper tantrum…behaviour problems

I am a practicing pediatric homeopath and would love to help you. Here is some information technical and personal:

Who can homeopathy help?

Your child’s health is very important to you and as a parent you will face many decisions about your child’s care...from vaccinations to childhood illnesses and behavior problems. Homeopathic treatment works very well for children and used long term prevents chronic illness as they grow to adulthood. Many parents use teething tablets when their infant starts teething. Teething tablets are one of the most common forms of homeopathic treatment and many parents use them without realizing it is a homeopathic remedy. Many childhood ailments can be treated effectively with homeopathy – ear infections, coughs, skin rashes, allergies, and behavior problems are just some of the things I see in my homeopathic practice. In more serious cases homeopathy works very well as a complementary treatment with allopathic medicine to help your child retain his vital force and maintain it after treatment.

When my first child Bodhi was small, I noticed that he wouldn’t sleep with my husband and me he pushed us away and liked being alone. He would head butt out of some impulse and bite at the breast. It was as if he was adverse to hugs and cuddles. He'd throw incredible tantrums. I didn’t know if this was just his personality or something that was like a heavy cloud that he was burdened. Homeopathy says that we inherit the suppression's of our ancestors (genetic predisposition) to some extent and that this inheritance can affect what we become sick with. In homeopathy this is called a “Miasm” a very long and interesting subject in and of itself. Given the little knowledge I had, I was convinced that homeopathy could help. He was given an individual prescription and his remedy worked right away. He has since become and open hearted, polite, inquisitive, loving little boy and that dark cloud is a thing of the past. It is like homeopathy came in and blew a gentle wind on the cloud and it just dispersed. I have used homeopathy for nightmares, temper tantrums, growing pains, pregnancy, teething, fevers, and everything else that we have needed in our health care lives. It seems that homeopathy uses in our lives are never ending and I am forever grateful for it, in face can’t imagine my life without it. I am a different person because of it.

If you would like to talk call mail me and we'll wishes...



answers from Los Angeles on

maybe what i'm about to say may be a bit difficult to grasp, but your son is ready to do TIME OUT. i have a 14 month old. and i started him on time out at 13 months. my theory is not wait until it gets bad to start implementing discipline. but the earlier you are able to do it the better you can nip issues in the butt. my son also screamed and showed little signs of tantrums (i.e laying down on the floor and putting his head down; he doesn't throw himself down or scream or cry..kick etc.; but i immediately see his lying down on the floor as a small sign of a tantrum that could become worse if i didn't nip it on the butt).

at first, he got up when i sat him down in the corner, but with a few days, he now stays in place (face to the wall, hands folded). you have to believe in your child's ability to do good and he will. don't underestimate how able he is.

i was consistent, folded his hands back together if it got apart. soon he understood that when it's time out that's how he should be sitting. and believe me he sits in that corner for as long as possible, and does not leave until i tell him too.

you can do this! good luck.

some people have advised on Sign Language and i highly recommend that too. My son can sign the basic needs: milk, eat, please, and sorry. He always has to sign sorry after he gets excused from time out.


answers from Los Angeles on

Right on schedule. He's learning that he wants things different than they are, doesn't know how to express his wants, and is extremely frustrated. Hence the tantrum.

What worked best for us was to ignore them. Seriously. He needs to learn that this behavior will get him nothing, and then he will stop.

Don't react. Don't hold him during a tantrum, you might accidentally drop him. If he's thrashing, put him down so that he can't hurt himself. Then sit calmly or continue doing whatever you were doing.

The worst thing you can do is to give into tantrums, followed at a close second by reacting negatively. (Giving in makes lets them know that throwing tantrums work, and encourage more. Reacting negatively causes them to think: "look what I can make mommy do!")

My husband used to say, "We don't negotiate with tantrumists." lol

Seriously, remain calm and wait him out. This too shall pass.

So much good luck to you.



answers from Honolulu on

Congratulations, your son has hit a developmental milestone. He is trying to get your attention and tell you something. In giving him whatever you think he wants at whatever time you think he wants it, you are actually doing the opposite of what he needs.

He needs a predictable routine, and structure. Ditch the flashcards and try teaching him sign language. It is amazingly easy to do, just get one of the books from the library and familiarize yourself with a few signs to start (just start with one or two of the things that you son is probably trying to communicate to you - like "eat" or "milk") This will give him the ability to start a conversation, and it will be a huge relief to him to be able to do so.

Create a predictable structure to the day - wake up, eat breakfast, playtime at home, nap, eat lunch, run errands, etc. If each day could be similar to him from the day before then he will feel more secure. Keep nap times consistent.

Good luck and have fun - this is really when it gets interesting!!!



answers from Los Angeles on

My son did the same thing. He was a wonderful baby, slept well, ate well, and rarely cried...Then he turned about 15 months and the tantrums started. I tried time-outs, spanking, and I even kept a water gun in the car to squirt him on occasion. Some of these may have worked a time or two, but not consistently. My son will be 3 in Sept. and I regret to inform you that he is still the king a temper tantrums, but they are becoming less frequent. What does seem to help the most is giving him CHOICES, "You can either do A or B" (there is no C) It seems to be a win, win because you still have the power but they actually make the choice. I think there is actually a book on it, but a friend told me about it. Good luck, cherish the happy moments you have with him, they'll help you through the bad ones:)



answers from Los Angeles on

Did he just get a round of immunizations? Some kids cannot handle all the toxins in the shot and their bodies are undergoing lots of internal stress. Or if they got the MMR which has live viruses, they can develop an infection in their gut which causes great discomfort. Your regular pedia will not agree with this but as mom to three kids, one on the autism spectrum, I've seen it with all of them. My recommendation is to find a good classical homeopathic doctor who can prescribe some remedies which will not be harmful or disruptive to the body, and can help your child get back into equilibrium.

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