Corner on Health - Temper Tantrums

February 10, 2016

Posted By: Shaunescy


What are temper tantrums?

A temper tantrum is essentially a meltdown reaction. The child may not be able to verbalize why she is upset. Symptoms can include whining, physically acting out, throwing objects, kicking and screaming. Some children will have breath-holding spells and faint. More likely

to occur when a child is hungry, ill, tired or frustrated, tantrums can hit without warning or obvious provocation. Tantrums are a normal part of development as a child tries to exert independence and control his environment, but they may signal developmental or emotional issues if they occur after childhood.

Can tantrums be avoided?

Reduce or avoid known triggers:

» Pay attention to your child when she is not having a tantrum.

» Provide activities she can master. For example, let her help set the table by making it her job to put out napkins.

» Encourage her to use words to express what she wants rather than pointing, grunting or having you guess.

» Accentuate the positive and praise desired behaviors. You may have to make a concerted effort to watch for praiseworthy behaviors.

For example, your 6-year-old just helped her 2-year-old brother put on his boots. Praise!

»  Keep to a schedule. Children do best when they know what to expect. Explain if you are deviating from your usual schedule.

»  Reduce times of fatigue. Encourage naps and quiet time.

»  Limit “no” responses. Ask open-ended questions rather than ones that require a “yes” or “no” response.

»  Reduce frustration. Limit choices so a child is not overwhelmed. Use diversions and distractions.

»  Be consistent. If you “sometimes” let Johnny do something, and then today say “no” he may have a tantrum because he thinks you’ll change your mind.

»  Reduce stress, which may mean altering your plans or schedule.

»  Avoid tantrum triggers. There are “no candy” check-out lanes in some grocery stores, for example.

»  Provide diversions and comfort such as bringing a favorite toy or hand-held game to occupy the child if you anticipate a long wait or travel.

What can I do if my child has a tantrum?

Even if you take every precaution, tantrums can still happen.

»  Stay calm so you can calm your child. It isn’t helpful if the parent also has a tantrum, yells, threatens or spanks.

»  Remember, a tantrum is temporary.

»  Make sure your child is in a safe place and won’t hurt himself during his tantrum. You may need to remove him from the tantrum setting.

»  If the tantrum is due to being upset, provide comfort if she will let you do so.

»  Don’t give in to tantrums. If Ginny wants a candy bar and has a tantrum if she doesn’t get it, don’t give it to her to stop the tantrum. That sets you up for her having a tantrum whenever she doesn’t get what she wants.

»  Stop talking. Don’t try to reason with a toddler out of control.

»  Ignore the tantrum.

»  Let your child know that you are there for her when she is ready to calm down.

For more information:

»  Top Tips for surviving Tantrums:

»  Temper Tantrums in Toddlers: How to Keep the Peace and Parenting Tips: How to Improve Toddler Behavior:

»  How to Stop the Tantrums and 10 Ways to Tame Your Kid’s Tantrums:

Realize that tantrums are a normal part of development and are temporary. Although temper tantrums can be disconcerting, your child needs to know you are the parent, calm and in control and that, despite the tantrum, you still love her.


Marie Mitchell is nationally certified as both a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner and Family Nurse Practitioner. She is the owner of Four Corners Health Care and welcomes new patients of all ages. For more information call 406-556-8300 or visit .

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