Technically speaking tantrums are dealt with the moment a baby is born. We don’t think of it that way because  they don’t have any other way of telling us what’s wrong other than crying for hours, but that’s what it is. When they start with their vocabulary, that’s when we start to put a label on things. Truth of it is, they don’t have any better way of dealing with their emotions when they are two than when they are two months.

We need to try and help them out. As parents it’s our job to try and help them through their issues. Given time to meet developmental milestones combined with our teaching; children begin to gain the emotional maturity needed to work through tantrums normally by the time they reach age 5. For some this may come a bit sooner, and for some a bit later. This is something that we as parents need to remember – no matter how difficult it seems for us at the time.

It’s not super fun to deal with a young child that just drops to dead weight in the middle of the store and starts screaming because they didn’t get the toy they wanted, but it’s all they know how to do, so we need to figure out a way through it.

In my all too extensive experience dealing with screaming tantrums, I have learned that there is always more behind the problem. There is always something else that the child is dealing with other than being told no. For some children it’s diet, for some it’s exhaustion, it might be a sensory response, and for others it may be their desire for control.  

If I speak of diet, it’s only because I know of children that have sensitivities to certain diet issues.  We need to look at nap times as well. Children get tired, and when they get tired, much like adults, they get very cranky. This is something to look at when you’re dealing with tantrums. If you can pinpoint a trigger for the tantrums you can save yourself a lot of hassle.

As for what to do when your child is full out tantrum mode: BREATH!

Breathing is something that you need to learn how to do. It is also something that you can teach and model for your children. Then what? First breath and then speak calmly and in a matter of fact tone to your child. Keep this talk short. Some examples could include:

“I will speak with you when your body is not yelling and hitting”

“You need to stop yelling or we will leave”

“Please speak to me in a kind voice. If you can’t do that, go to time-out”

Always, always, always…

Follow through on what you say. Talk to them when calm, leave the store when the tantrum continues, and enforce time-out if disrespect continues. Consistent use of following through on what you say will quickly transfer into your children knowing that you mean what you say.

Never, never, never…

Yell back at your child or hit them. This behavior from you will teach your kids that yelling and hitting are ok.  Wow – Talk about a mixed message!


Model the behavior that you expect your children to use. They need to learn how to deal with their anger properly, and you are their best example. It is difficult to learn how to appropriately manage one’s anger; but it is a critical skill to possess. Plus, once you master the art, you’ll find that passing that knowledge along will be easy. You’ll also find that your child’s tantrums will be shorter, and easier to get through.

We all would love to hear your stories about tantrums and how you have survived these struggles. Comment below!

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Barb, LMHC, CPC, Ed.M, CAS  

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