What Is the Best Way to Handle a Temper Tantrum?

Updated on August 05, 2010
A.T. asks from Beaverton, OR
7 answers

Hi Moms,

My 2.5 year old has recently begun temper tantrums and my response has been to put him in a 2 minute time out. What have you found to work best with temper tantrums? For a little background my little guy likes to do things on his own...load the DVD player, push the play button, use a key card on a door, etc. I often let him do these things on his own which he loves but recently (now that I have a baby) there are times when I tell him I need to things on my own (because my hands are full), his response is a tantrum. I try to explain that he can do it next time or something like that but it doesn't seem to make a difference. Any suggestions? Thanks!

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answers from Austin on

Step over and ignore. Go to another room, close the door if you have to. With no audience.. it is no fun..

Our daughter did have a meltdown in the bathtub.She cried and cried for 30 minutes. We left her there, we were watching her the whole time. and she would scream full blast, start to get quiet and then start again. I had my husband record it.. It is an awesome tape! When she finally calmed down, we picked her up without a mention of the tantrum and went through the bedtime routine.. She never had another tantrum after that. She began using her words, or we would ask her, "do you need a hug?" "Do you want some minutes to feel better?"

If you are out in public, pick up your child and leave. Once your child calms down, let him know you sure are disappointed to not be able to buy the groceries that you really needed.

I do agree about watching for signs of a meltdown. He needs to be able to put his feelings into words.
For each event only use 1 question or suggestion. You do not want to overwhelm him.
"I need you to use your words."

"You look disappointed that we cannot find your shirt. Do you want to wear the red one or the blue one instead?" Once he chooses your answer ~ "good choice!"

"We do not buy treats at the store, do you want to take, gold fish or raisins for a snack? " "You cannot decide? We can take both."

"You look very frustrated, that I need to change the babies diaper. If you will wait patiently, I will help you with the puzzle." Once he waits patiently "Thank you for your patience! "

"We will be leaving in 5 minutes. Please begin putting away your toys."
He puts them away
Answer "Thank you for putting away your toys. You sure are a big boy. "

"I need you to be my big helper and hold the diaper bag, while I open the door." He waits patiently Answer. "Thank you for helping me. You are a good helper. "

Also each time you see him holding his emotions together, touch him lightly and tell him you are proud of his behavior.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

**Adding this:
One of the first words I taught my daughter, was the word "compromise." She understood. Do not be afraid, of teaching your child, succinct applicable "vocabulary."
Teach him: fragile, danger, will break, careful, only for adults etc.
Or put the DVD player up high, where he cannot touch it.
Or get him a cheapo tape machine/boom box, that he CAN play with.
Think of alternatives....
If he tantrums because you are busy... say "I"m sorry son, but Mommy is busy, in a minute..." then go and do as you need to. He will tantrum. He will stop. A child WILL deflate on their own. Then when you come back after a minute of doing your things, say "Mommy is back! THANKS for understanding..." and hug him. Give him a positive reaction, when you return to him etc.
He probably also feels that since you have a baby... that he needs attention too and it is a reflection of his age. He need to have his own routine, too. Daily. Just HIS routine... and time. Juggling 2 kids is not easy... but it is doable.
Make him 'special' and tell him that... have a special 'wink' or hand-shake that ONLY the both of you do. That is what I did, with my eldest child, when I had my 2nd child. Get creative... make him realize, that you do 'understand' him, and 'hear' him... but some things, are not immediate.
You cannot possibly give in to each single tantrum.

A toddler tantrums... because of lack of being able to articulate what they mean. They also tantrum out of frustration... or they want to do things, which in their mind they can, but they cannot ACTUALLY do it.... cognitively nor coordination wise. Their motor skills...are still not fully developed, for example.
A Toddler, does NOT know how... to mange themselves, automatically nor instinctually. Many adults can't even do that. So, keep relative, what your "expectations" are, of your child. Age appropriate expectations. Otherwise, frustration will keep occurring for both you and he.

Also, their emotional development is STILL not fully developed. Thus, they do not completely understand their emotions, nor expressing it in a a palatable way.

So.. teach him. Coach him on it. Teach him about 'feelings' and the names for it and HOW to say it. Toddlers need that and to be given succinct examples... and role playing it. It takes time, for them to master this ability.... they are developing.

A toddler, is like a lump of coal.... not a diamond yet. So you have to help them shine.
Teach them the skills... to "manage" their emotions and expression... and that you "hear" them.
In time... you will build your child's "emotional IQ" and ability to navigate themselves in social situations and their own emotions.

So along with teaching them "boundaries" and "manners".... you also, not just 'punish' them... but you need to teach them... "how" to manage and navigate their reactions... their coping-skills, their problem-solving ability.
If he is mad for example, that's okay. Adults get mad too, right? But teach him alternate ways of expressing it... ie: letting you know in words, letting him yell in his room then cool off and you both talk about it, teaching him other words to say and HOW to say it in palatable/pleasant ways etc.
But remember.. .at this very young age.. they will not be 'perfect' about it yet. So... allow for a learning curve about it all.
It is a big ball of wax... for a Toddler, to master.
Even some adults, don't have their emotions/reactions mastered, yet.

For my kids, when they are upset/tantrum... I ONLY "expect".. that they "try their best." For them, for that situation, for the reason at the time. I do NOT expect them, (and I tell them this), to be "PERFECT" about it... but to at least show me, that they are trying. Then, I praise them. Or, if they are having a hard time doing that... I tel them they can tell me, and not feel bad, or inadequate. I tell them, that I have faith in them.. that they are trying. I make it attainable for them... and human.

all the best,

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Ignore them. If you give any attention to them then they work for him. If you don't, they will pass.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Every child is different and so having said that you may have to try a combination of things to find what works for you. I found with both of my kids that staying calm, coming down to their level to speak and using simple language works best. If they only get a calm firm reaction from you that is how they will learn to handle things. Another thing to keep in mind is to let him know what is about to happen and that can help him prepare for disappointment. If he knows ahead of time that mommy is going to push the play button on the remote before the movie starts, he can be prepared. You can give simple choices too, mommy pushes the button on the remote and we watch the movie, but if you scream we can just turn the movie off. Do you want to watch the movie, if Yes, then mommy pushes the button on the remote. Also over exaggerate the praise of things he does well, this too can prevent the tantrum.
Good Luck

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

I'm glad to know I am not alone on having a child like that! My daugther too is very independent, and she has a certain way that she likes to do things - like she MUST be the one to hit "play" on the remote when we put in a dvd - and if it doesn't happen the way she wants - full blown temper tantrum. ACH!

Well, that was 7 months ago. She's a lot better now. I bought & read the book "Love & Logic Magic for Early Childhood." This book saved my sanity!
Anyway, the book offers 2 strategies for dealing with temper tantrums (and I believe it just depends on the kid to see what works). #1 "Keep on truckin" :-) "The next time your child has a tantrum in the store, keep on truckin. That's right. Walk away, turn the corner, and peek around. Make sure your child can't see you. Most kids will suddenly realize that you aren't going to hang around for their fits, and give up. This same technique works at home too."
#2 "Encourage the art form"
"A second strategy for taming tantrums is to encourage the art form. When your child begins a meltdown, put a bored look on your face and say, 'Nice tantrum, but I think you are losing your touch. Last time you screamed a lot louder and kicked your feet. I'm really disappointed. Show me how its really done. Come on.' A friend of ours used this approach with her son. She recounted one day when she begged her son to have a fit. He responded with both hands on his hips and a twisted face he said, 'No! I don't want to!'"

With my daughter - it was #1. I had to 100% ignore, and move on to other things. Funny enough though, I remember as a child that my father used strategy #2 on me. :-)

3 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I have the same problem with my 3 yr. old. It's been going on now for probably over 6 months. I hate to give in after I've told her no because then I'd be inconsistent and she'll never take me seriously. From what I've read and heard, there isn't much you can do to stop it once it starts. The easiest is to avoid it from happening. (If you think a "no" may cause a tantrum, don't say "no" in the first place. Taking an extra second to set down your things and get a key card is still quicker than dealing with a tantrum). But once the tantrum starts, staying calm is important. Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Our little guy is younger, but he is very "I'll do it myself" like your son. When he throws a tantrum we don't over react and tell him he'll get a time out if he doesn't calm down. He usually calms down quickly, but when he doesn't he gets a timeout where he can finish his tantrum. Once he has calmed down we let him out of timeout. So far this has worked for us, but we will soon be seeing those so called "terrible 2's" You just need to remember to keep your cool (realistically we all lose our cool sometimes so don't feel bad if you do) and be consistent in discipline. Good Luck Mama!!!

2 moms found this helpful
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