Expect your 1- or 2-year-old to have temper tantrums. In this age group tantrums are a normal part of learning independence and mastery. If your young child has temper tantrums, try the following:
- Ignore the behavior. Sometimes ignoring the tantrum works best, especially since tantrums usually last less than 2 minutes and attempts to stop a tantrum usually make it worse. When you stop responding to your child's temper tantrums, the behavior may get worse for a few days before it stops. Ignoring some temper tantrums (such as when a child has one because he or she does not want to go to bed, or is kicking, biting, and pinching) may not be possible.
- Praise your child for calming down. After a tantrum, comfort your child without giving in to his or her demands. Tell your child that he or she was out of control and needed time to calm down. Never make fun of or punish a child who has had a temper tantrum. Don't use words like "bad girl" or "bad boy" to describe your child during a temper tantrum.
- Acknowledge the feeling. After your child is calm, acknowledge his or her feelings of frustration and anger. You might say, "I know that you were frustrated because you could not tie your shoes."
- Teach other ways to handle anger and frustration. Teaching a child different ways to deal with negative emotions may reduce the number of temper tantrums a child has or prevent temper tantrums from getting worse. Offer simple suggestions to help a child learn self-control. For example, encourage your child to use words to express feelings or establish a safe, comfortable place in the home where your child can go to calm down. Look for times that your child acts in a positive way, and thank your child for his or her actions.
- Encourage taking a break from a frustrating activity or redirect the child to a task he or she has already mastered.
- Be a good role model. Children often learn by watching their parents. Set a good example by handling your own frustration calmly.
During a tantrum, you can help your child by:
- Remaining calm.
- Staying where the child can see you, especially if the child is very young.
- Sending the child to his or her room until he or she is calm, if the child is old enough to understand why this is being done.
- Removing any dangerous furniture or objects within the child's reach. If there are too many objects that could hurt the child, you may need to move the child to a safe place. Sometimes you may need to physically hold a younger child to prevent injury.
- Being firm and consistent about what you expect. Do not give in to the child's demands.
- Not trying to reason with the child during the tantrum. Talk calmly to the child if this works for him or her. But don't lecture, threaten, or argue with the child.
Do not be alarmed if the child Reference holds his or her breath Opens New Window. Children often hold their breath during a temper tantrum. They will breathe again automatically, even if they pass out. For more information, see the topic Reference Breath-Holding Spells.
There are some things you can do to Reference help prevent some temper tantrums. You may be able to:
- Distract your child from his or her frustration or take your child away from a situation that is likely to trigger a tantrum. For example, if your child doesn't like to go to bed, about 20 minutes before bedtime talk about a fun activity that is going to occur the next day. Reduce the need to say "no" to your child by childproofing your home. Fewer rules need to be enforced if unsafe or breakable items are kept out of a child's reach or sight.
- Reduce how often temper tantrums occur by giving your child simple choices and by listening to your child's concerns. It also can help to provide a regular and predictable schedule for your child. This is especially true during times that you expect your child may be more prone to temper tantrums, such as when starting a new child care routine. Establish regular times to eat and sleep to help your child to be in a good state of mind.
In general, parents who know what to expect from their child at different ages are better able to help their child grow and develop in a healthy way. Talk with your doctor about how to help your child gain a sense of independence, boost his or her self-confidence, and handle frustration and anger.
If your child harms himself or herself or others during temper tantrums, talk with your doctor about ways to stop these behaviors. Your doctor may suggest that your child be evaluated for a behavior problem.
If your child continues to have temper tantrums, you may want to use Reference time-outs. Time-out works best for children who understand why it is being used. A time-out removes the child from the situation, allows him or her time to calm down, and teaches the child that having a temper tantrum is not acceptable behavior.
If you need to use time-out, it will be important for you to also take time to be with your child (time-in). Time-in may help reduce your child's frustration and lead to fewer temper tantrums. Time-in is making frequent, brief contact with your child when he or she is behaving as expected. For example, you can pat your child on the head while he or she is playing quietly. This physical touch shows the child that you approve of his or her behavior. Or you can make a comment such as, "I like it when you sit quietly and look at your books when I am on the phone."
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference March 20, 2012|
|Medical Review:||Reference Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
Reference Thomas Emmett Francoeur, MD, MDCM, CSPQ, FRCPC - Pediatrics