What to Do for Temper Tantrums?

Updated on July 11, 2012
A.A. asks from Tulsa, OK
13 answers

My son (almost 15 mos old) has started throwing tantrums when he doesn't get what he wants or is frustrated. He doesn't talk much yet, but it's pretty obvious what he wants when he throws them. High pitched screaming, crying, stomping in a circle until he falls down, then crying on the floor. Some days he doesn't do it at all, other days he gets stuck on one thing and keeps doing it. Primarily he does this when the baby gate to the kitchen and stairs is closed and he wants to go in/up (he's allowed both places with supervision, so it's when I'm busy and can't spend 10 minutes following him up and down the stairs), when he tries to climb into the toy cabinet (it's much too small to fit him), or when he stands up in the chair and gets put back on the floor. He started climbing up in the chair the other day and it's his new favorite thing to do. Unfortunately, he stands up in it and despite me telling him to sit down (he knows what that means) he keeps standing up so he gets taken out of the chair and sat on the floor. So how do you deal with toddler tantrums at this age? The stomping in a circle is actually pretty funny, but I'm assuming laughing at him isn't a good idea! I've heard to ignore them, try to distract them, pick them up and hold them until they calm down or put them in a quiet room until they calm down, but am not sure what the best way to go is. I want to be consistant with what we do. Right now I pretty much ignore the fact that he's screaming and try to distract him (when he's mad he can't fit in the cabinet I'll get the tube toy that he can climb through out and try to get him to climb into it, etc). What do you do and does it work??

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answers from San Francisco on

I agree with Catherine C. Kids have a right to their feelings but they don't have a right to make me miserable because of their feelings. So, off to the bedroom to indulge their feelings all they want!

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answers from New York on

Our ped recommended moving him to a safe spot, letting him have the tantrum, and ignoring him while keeping an eye on him.

We say no with an explanation of what is isn't permissible. i.e. no, toy's go in the cabinet, not kids. if he persists, we give a sharp, "eh" as a warning, picture Ceasar Milan. Then we move him away bodily. All the while we remind ourselves, like BB said, that "Its hard work being a baby." We say it aloud too so he knows he has our sympathy.

It has worked with some things, not with others. i.e. He now knows that if he tries to climb out of the tub, bathtime is over. If he even makes like he's going to climb, I remind him, and he usually sits right back down.

They understand more than you think they might. Also, while they really want to get into that cabinet, they are also really interested in pleasing you.

Good luck to you and yours,
F. B.

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answers from San Francisco on

If you are in public, remove him from the situation immediately (even if it means you have your food packed up to go or leave the grocery cart for a while, let the clerk know you're coming back)...take him to the car and just sit with him until he calms down.

If you are at home, put him in his room or a restricted area....even if you are "too busy". He has to learn that he will not get his way by having a tantrum.

Even when children are very young, if you talk with them and let them know when they calm down and behave, they will be able to go back in or get to do or have something they want. The most important thing is to be consistant.

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answers from New York on

Put your son's feelings into words for him. "You are SO MAD you cant open that!" "You really want to play in there" You want it!" But you cant fit. So you're mad mad mad" Teach him his feelings are OK but he needs to learn to put his feelings into words.

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answers from San Francisco on

My theory has always been that my kids have the right to throw a fit, albeit out of my earshot. Therefore, when they began throwing tantrums, I'd calmly take them to their room (or another safe place), set them down in the middle of the floor, and say, "When you are feeling better, you can come out." And then leave the room. This does two things: 1) Removes the ear-splitting shrieking from my vicinity, and 2) allows the child to get it out of their system before returning to polite society. Keep in mind that your son is not trying to be bad, he is simply testing limits (totally normal), and experiences frustration when things don't go the way he'd like them to (also totally normal) - however that doesn't mean he gets to inflict his frustration on you, and most of all, you don't want to give him what he wants when he throws a tantrum. Don't reward the poor behavior, even though the behavior is developmentally normal.

My younger daughter was the queen of the tantrum when she was 2, and now that she is 7, she's still got loads of personality - but she learned early on that when she is frustrated enough to scream, she needs to go somewhere quiet and get hold of herself. She will play with her older sister, become frustrated, and say, "I need to go to my room for a few minutes!" - off she goes, and when she returns a few minutes later, she's completely fine. It's a skill that is useful to children as they get older.

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answers from Missoula on

I usually tried to distract her when I thought a tantrum might be brewing... If I put a lock on the cabinet, I would also put a couple of toys in front of it. (So that when the cabinet is inaccessible, she has something RIGHT THERE to play with.)

IF she threw a tantrum anyway, I would put her in her room and let her throw it. As soon as she calmed down, I would let her out to play some more. If she kept up the tantrum for more than a few minutes, I would try to calm her down IN her room. I was worried that that would backfire on me (that she would learn that throwing longer tantrums would get her attention), but it never did. My DD is now 27 months, and I still use this method with success. :)

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answers from New York on

All kids need different things during a tantrum. The advice you heard is right. My son would need to be held and comforted in order to get a grip. My friend's daughter needed to be sent to her room and ignored. I heard a quote "They are not giving you a hard time, they are having a hard time". If you think of it that way, it might help not getting impatient with them, which is really hard when they are being like this all day. Try to be creative and do things that help avoid a tatrum if possible. Also, redirection is really good. Know your child and try to be consistant and it will pass.

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answers from Texarkana on

my son is 23 mths old and boy is this becoming a everyday thing, I usually try to ignore it if possible but his new thing is right when he wakes up in the morning he has to have a sippy cup asap and if for sum reason i have to wash one because i was to lazy to do the dishes the night before well all hell breaks loose but the sec it gets in his hands he says thank you thru his tears and then he's fine. lol and if we are in a public place and he starts throwing a fit its binky to the rescue. We only do the binky at night time but I do carry one with me at all times bc if a fit pops up i toss it in his mouth and he chills its my liversaver at the store but i never do it at home I just ignore him if possible.

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answers from Boston on

He doesn't have the verbal skills so he reacts the only way he knows. I agree about giving words to his feelings. No, laughing isn't a good idea - he's so frustrated even if his little dance is kind of amusing. Yelling at him isn't good either - it just encourages more noise and more out of control screaming. If distraction works, fine. Best to give him the words first, and then speak in a calm manner. If he likes to climb, find something safe for him to climb on - maybe a little jungle gym in the yard or playroom? Maybe switch the desire to be up high to an interest in building a high tower out of blocks? A lot of tantrums, or at least the oppositional/defiant behavior that precedes them, is designed to get your attention. Try to find ways to give that attention, or to say "Play with your trucks until Mommy takes the laundry upstairs, and then we will play a game together." Or something along those lines. Also try to give him some transition time from one activity to another or when you need to be on the other side of the gate, whatever seems to set him off.

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answers from Columbia on

I can answer this with first hand knowledge, and recent experience.

Son is 16mo. I ignore, and I do mean NO reaction, his tantrums. It's hard, but he quickly learns that tantrums get nothing, and soon thereafter stops throwing them. Except for the occasional boundary testing - everything is all good in the hood.

Grandparents arrive last week. They think it's mean to let him cry. So they 'win' by playing a version of watch the birdy.

He throws a fit over pushing his brother in the hospital cart, so gma gives him a snack instead.

He squeals about a light switch, and gets offered a toy or picked up.

My method got me one tantrum every few days, and only a couple of the 10 second whine/cry to see if anyone's paying attention.

G-parents method is 20+ whine:cries per day. Almost every one met with some satisfactory replacement reward.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

At that age, I found the best thing to do was avoid the triggers. Make sure he is not hungry or tired. Since it doesn't happen every day can you tell whether it happens more when he is hungry or tired? Put the chair up on the table when you can't be right there. If he can't climb on it, he can't stand on it. Put him in the room you are doing laundry in and let him play there so he is not off trying to get over the baby gate. Then give words to his feelings. 'I see you are MAD that you can't get over the gate and play with the toys'. Then distract.

I do NOT believe in ignoring or punishing children for having tantrums. It teaches them that we only love them when they are behaving well and that their big scary feelings make them unlovable. NOT a good way to teach them to deal with their feelings. At 15 months 'he will learn that tantrums don't get him what he wants' is equivalent to 'he will learn that his parents don't love him when he has a tantrum'.

At this age, avoiding tantrums is best. When he is a little older he will need to learn to deal with frustration and disappointment. At that age, I empathized with my son (You want to climb on the chair, it is really frustrating that you can't climb the chair) and then in a positive fashion enforced the boundary (but climbing the chair is dangerous, it could fall on you) and then distracting or simply waiting with him until his big feelings were done.

To all the posters who feel you MUST punish a child for expressing their feelings because they will never learn otherwise - just not so. I have used positive discipline with my son (now 6-1/2) and he has NEVER had a full blown tantrum. He knows the names for all his feelings. He knows that being mad makes him feel bad. He is of course mad sometimes, but he can control himself and when he is ready come and reconnect with us. My sister's two have always been punished for tantrums and other behavior. They had tantrums for YEARS (seemed like an eternity) and still don't have any degree of self discipline - if they think they can get away with whatever it is - they do it.

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answers from Cleveland on

I totally agree w/ the ignore method. If you can. If you feel like you can't stop yourself from some reaction, simply say something like "uh-oh!" and go place him in his crib. Say the same "trigger" phase everytime, and remove him to his crib. As he gets older if this is still going, you can also say something like "You can come out when you can be nice" and leave it at that.
My four year old was the champ of f it throwing. Now when he even starts the slightest, I look at him and calmly say uh-oh...and he immediately says I'm sorry, I'll stop!



answers from Dallas on

See if you can teach him baby sign language (library should have books) to help him communicate till his words come. That might help a little.

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