Looking for Parenting Tips to Manage 2 y.o's Temper Tantrums

Updated on December 13, 2010
A.R. asks from Madison, WI
8 answers

My son is 2 (will be 3 in March). He definitely has had his share of temper tantrums starting before he turned 2. There was a period of time this summer/Fall when it felt like he wasn't having them very often at all. However, in the past month, it seems like when he does have them (few times/week), they are more severe than they were in the past. For example, today we got home and he didn't get his way about something so he proceeded to sream and cry hysterically for about 30 minutes straight. Part of that time included throwing things around the house and continuously hitting me and following me around the house. For the first 15 minutes, I was able to disengage and just let him scream. But when the hitting and throwing starts that is when i have a really hard time disengaging and keeping my cool. I am at a total loss...I don't know the proper way to handle this behavior. I try putting him in his room to calm down and separate, but this involves me holding the door closed because he can easily get out. So, while I'm doing this he is banging on the door, moving furniture, etc. I attempt to tell what he CAN do in these situations (use your words, take a break, etc.), but that doesn't help because he is hysterical. The only thing that eventually made him stop hitting me and calm down was when I had a breakdown and began crying myself and telling him how much this hurt me, which is not the way I wanted it to go but I was so upset that I couldn't help it. Then 5 minutes later, he is back to his sweet self. In the grand scheme of things it is very short lived, but at the time it feels like an eternity and I'm just at a total loss on how to properly handle these situations when they are happening. It doesn't help that I'm 31 weeks pregnant either! I'm looking for any practical tips/skills that I can use when he his behaving this way. THANKS!

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

Featured Answers


answers from Chicago on

Read 123 Magic.
It has saved my life with tantrums and whining. No joke.

These days, I seldom make it to 2 before he gives in (DS is 2.5, also).
If we do have to act, we are consistent in taking away whatever "it" was about. And if he's just whining/screaming for no reason, he gets a time out in his room. The prospect of that alone is usually enough to stop the behavior when we don't do the counting.

1 mom found this helpful

More Answers



answers from Cleveland on

Wow, this sounds like a post I would right or close to one I have lol. Read some oy my posts actually if you want.
I have been battling this with my 2.5 yr old for nearly a year! I finally broke down and went and saw a child behavior specialist. She told me that alot of what I have been doing is right. Ignoring, removing him from the situation etc. But she also told me with a child that gets so upset and physical that you need for them to have a safe zone where you can leave them to wear themselves out and safely learn to calm themselves down. My son could get out of his room too so we bought child safety covers for the inside door handle so now he cant get out. She also said to leave them in there as long as it takes for them to calm down.
We did this and the first time he was in there 20 minutes. Now its 3-5 minutes. She said kids like this are seeking control and reaction from you. So when you give them neither they eventually admit defeat and give up lol. feel free to message me, I could share more tips with you. Believe me, Ive been at my wits end, and I also just had a baby so Ive been through this pregnant too!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I have 2 boys, 4 and 2. My 4 year old went thru this same phase and my advice is put him in his room, don't try to talk to him when he is having the tantrum and let him know that when he calms down he can come out and then talk to him about his behavior. They get so wrapped up in their tantrum that it is really pointless to do anything in the mist of it, except remove yourself from the situation and anything that is breakable due to the throwing things. Any attention, negative or positive, if you give into it, will be repeated, so you have to NOT give into the negative and reinforce the positive, which anyone working in early education will tell you. So when he handles things appropriately, reinforce it by telling him how good he handled it and making sure he knows that is the way you want him to act. I have dealt with the tantrums at home and in stores, parks, etc, so you really have to be consistent, which may be embarrasing at times, but is most effective. I have actually walked away from my son in CVS when he threw a tantrum, went around the corner and came back and he has not done it since, that was almost 2 years ago.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Sounds like you are dealing with a lot here, so my sympathies. I guess my first question would be whether there are any factors that are predisposing him to these tatrums. For example, is he more tired at certain times of the day, is his diet balanced, is he eating regularly, is he getting enough sleep at night, etc.? Are there stressors outside the home that could be contributing to this behavior, such as at daycare or a sitters house? You may also want to look at others in the home and if there is conflict or angry behavior being modeled for him. Children generally will act out more when they feel their environment is unpredictable and possibly unsafe. If you look at all this and feel that his health is good and his environment is calm and supportive, he may just be a very strong-willed child, temperamentally, which is really biology. It is excellent that you try to keep your cool and ignore the negative behavior, but when he is hitting you or engaging in unsafe behaviors it is very hard! He also still is quite young so developmentally he may not be capable of calming himself down without assistance. At this age it may be useful to focus on helping him calm down and end the tantrum rather than ignoring. This is not to say that you give into his demands, but that you empathize, "you are so angry right now," and offer your help, "mommy want to help you calm down so we can be safe," set limits calmly, "it is okay to be mad or sad but you may not hit or throw things." It may help to rehearse calming techniques before tantrums strike to see what works for him, hugging, holding, stroking a favorite stuffed animal or lovey. Once you have figured out how to calm him, you can move on to the discipline stage if necessary. But again, he is so little, time outs can work but use them sparingly. Hope this helps. A good book to consult is called "1,2,3 Magic." Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Once he is having a tantrum, no he won't hear what you are saying. It may help to figure out (when you can) what precipitates them. Is he hungry? Overtired? Does he not do well with transitions (leaving the park, starting something new). Does he give you any cues he is getting close to losing it? If so, then is the time to redirect to something else - try a playful voice, new game, avoiding what is setting it off. Once he is hysterical - there's not too much you can do but be present with him and not allow him to hurt you or himself. This may involve holding him, or just sitting there with him until he is ready for a hug. I don't think it does any good to address whatever the original issue was until the tantrum is over. Once he is over it - if he is fairly verbal you can practice for next time - 'I see you were angry you didn't get milk - what can you do next time that will work better - and then practice the response together with him. A lot of toddler tantrums are frustration about not making themselves understood clearly.
Sorry about the long answer.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Umm not sure, but since he responds to your emotions, try getting his attention and telling him he is making you sad, with a really overdone sad face, maybe the will stop him.

When he is not having a tantrum try reenforcing that it makes you sad when he acts that way...

Good luck!


answers from Chicago on

He needs a "safe room" or place to do this in ... maybe a club house type thing in his room if you can where there are pillows and "safe" things to throw or strip his room of everything but his bed and tell him once he learns to handle his "cool down" time better he can have things back in it. You should also be an example of how to "cool down" Have a fake temper tantrum yourself and have daddy explain to you that it is ok to be upset mommy but you have to be upset in the other room. You may come back out when you are all done and are ready to apologize for your actions. Once he watches this a few times, and really be JUST LIKE HIM and he sees that mommy goes to her room and sits wherever and smashes a pillow in her hands or screams in a pillow or whatever makes you feel better and you come out calm and sorry he will start to emmulate the behaivor too. Some kids have to see it to understand it, it soo worked for us after a few fake mommy meltdowns.



answers from Portland on

Kids in this age range are gaining autonomy and looking for ways to control their experience, which is still mostly beyond their control. Resistance and tantrums are natural outcomes of becoming more frustrated than they're able to endure, and frustration is a VERY common feature in the 2yo landscape, when you consider life from their perspective.

Though you won't ever have a toddler who can behave like an adult and make all the choices you would make, there are tried and true methods for eliminating much of the mutual frustration that the mom and the child experience. Here are some of the best I've collected over many years of being with, watching, and interacting with toddlers:

1. When he wants something, empathize. I love the advice of Dr. Harvey Karp on how to get on a tantruming toddler's wavelength in this and several related videos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6KnVPUdEgQ&feature=re... . Once your child realizes you do care about what he wants, he's more likely to be able to calm down and move forward. And there are lots of positive ways to approach this, rather than just saying no to a child. They hear no so often, and they can be so frustrated. So look for ways of finding a mutual "yes," and save "no" for those occasions when children are trying something dangerous.

2. Keep it playful. Children lean primarily through play. Moms may need help with this if their own parents didn't model a lighthearted and cheerful approach. The book Playful Parenting is a great resource. There will also be times when you must have his cooperation, like diapering or trips to the store, and it may help to keep a special toy that he gets to play with only at those times.

3. Give advance notice when you'll want him to be doing anything differently, especially when he's grooving on his activity/play. Children absolutely hate unexpected transitions. With my grandson, we let him know at least a couple of times that a change is coming ("We're going to go to the store / have lunch / take a nap pretty soon." … and then a second/third alert a minute before making the change.)

4. Whatever the next activity is, make it sound as desirable as possible. Give some detail about the ride in the car, or a favorite food at lunch, or sweet snuggles before nap. Be positive and enthusiastic. And be calm. Desperation will show, and even though he's too young to deliberately engage in a planned power struggle, he will naturally sense any cracks in your resolve. And this is where future power struggles truly can begin.

5. Try to keep demands low when he's tired, overscheduled, or hungry. An already frustrated child doesn't have any emotional reserves left with which to cooperate.

6. Get to know his most likely trouble-spots, and plan ahead. For many kids, it's when they want some tempting object or food they've seen. So keep those things out of sight when possible. Be prepared with a distraction – for example, another toy he likes when you have to take ______ away from him, or a healthy treat when he wants a junky snack. Laughter, introducing a new game, a few twirls and bounces, hugs or tickles, a goofy song, can help break into his determination to get something he wants – that short attention span is both a curse and a blessing.

7. Avoid bribes, but let him work toward occasional rewards. Don't try to buy cooperation with "IF you'll do X, we'll let you have Y." Instead, phrase it as if he gets to assist in advancing something good for himself: "Hey, as soon as you help me get X done, then we get to do Y." It sounds like a small distinction, but it's important. It gives the child a chance to cooperate in what feels like choice, even when there's no "if" about it.

8. Be sure he gets lots and lots of physical activity during the day. Time outdoors in nature is calming for most children. If he has pent-up energy, it will have to come out some way, and unless channeled in a positive direction, it will likely to add to both your stress and his.

9. Whatever you are trying to teach will need to be repeated hundreds of times over the next few years. That's completely normal. Attention spans and impulse control are extremely limited in toddlers.

Spanking and time-outs don't work for every kid, and will sometimes actually backfire over time. Especially with spanking: children may be scared, shocked, or shamed into compliance, but behaving for the sake of avoiding pain isn't the same thing as developing an internalized sense of "good." Consistent, calm guidance and demonstrations of what you DO want from him will work better in the long run than punishing for what you DON'T want him to do. See more on this by googling The Science of Parenting or Emotion Coaching.

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions