1-800-382-2377

Temper tantrums

What are temper tantrums?

Temper tantrums are a way a young child lets out strong emotions before he or she is able to express them in socially acceptable ways. Although a child may seem totally out of control, these fits of rage, stomping, screaming, and throwing himself or herself to the floor are a normal part of childhood development. Temper tantrums often occur only with a parent. They are a way a child communicates his or her feelings. Parents can learn from their child by understanding the situation that caused the temper tantrum to erupt.

Temper tantrums often begin at about 1 year of age and continue until age 3. Nearly all children have them, but, by age 4, most children develop the necessary self-control and temper tantrums stop.

What causes temper tantrums?

As a young child learns more and becomes more independent, he or she wants to do more than he or she can physically and emotionally manage. This is frustrating to the child and the frustrations are expressed in a variety of ways. Temper tantrums are worse and occur more often when a child is hungry, tired, or sick. Some reasons children have temper tantrums include the following:

  • They want to be on their own, and get upset when they cannot do what they want
  • They are trying to get attention to test the rules
  • They have something taken away from them
  • They have not learned all the words to tell you what they are feeling or want and this upsets them
  • They do not understand what you want them to do
  • They are tired or hungry
  • They are worried or upset
  • They feel stress in the home 

How to prevent temper tantrums

Although temper tantrums sometimes happen without warning, parents can often tell when a child is becoming upset. Knowing the situations when your child is more likely to have a tantrum and thinking ahead may help. An example is not letting your child become overtired or hungry. Some suggestions for preventing or minimizing temper tantrums include the following:

  • Stick to routines for meals and sleep times. Avoid long outings, delayed meals, and naps.
  • Distract your child with a toy he or she is allowed to have.
  • Be reasonable about what to expect from your child, and do not expect your child to be perfect.
  • Help your child to avoid frustration. Prepare your child for changes or events by talking about them before they happen.
  • Let your child know your rules and stick to them.

How to respond during a temper tantrum

The following are helpful hints regarding the most appropriate ways to respond during your child's temper tantrum:

  • Stay calm.
  • Ignore the child until he or she is calmer. Keep doing whatever you were doing prior to the tantrum occurring.
  • Do not hit or spank your child.
  • Do not give in to the tantrum. When parents give in, children learn to use inappropriate behavior to get their way.
  • Do not "bribe" your child to stop the tantrum. The child then learns to act inappropriately to get a reward.
  • Remove potentially dangerous objects from your child or your child's path.
  • Use time-out for a short period to allow the child to get back in control.

What else should parents know about temper tantrums?

Temper tantrums generally happen less often as children get older. Children should play and act normally between tantrums. However, consult your child's physician if any of the following occur:

  • Temper tantrums are severe, last long, or happen very often.
  • Your child has a lot of trouble talking and cannot let you know what he or she needs.
  • Temper tantrums continue or get worse after 3 to 4 years of age.
  • Your child has signs of illness along with temper tantrums or holds his or her breath to cause fainting.
  • Your child harms himself or herself or others during tantrums.
  • Print This Page
  • Email This Page
  • Bookmark This Page
  • Smallest Font
  • Medium Font
  • Large Font
  • Extra Large Font
My MLH
  • Sign Up
  • Log In

Online tools to help manage your daily life.
Learn More...

Quick Links


 
©2010 Main Line Health. By using This Web site, you accept these terms of use. Please read our privacy statement. The Web site for Main Line Health, its contents and programs, is provided for informational and educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice nor is it intended to create any physician-patient relationship. Please remember that this information should not substitute for a visit or a consultation with a health care provider. The views or opinions expressed in the resources provided do not necessarily reflect those of Main Line Health or its staff.

FIRSTCALL Employee Assistance Program 1-800-382-2377
Copyright ©2014 FIRSTCALL