Toddler temper tantrums

17 August 2015


Tantrums are common in toddlers and pre-school children; these generally tend to tail off by the age of four. Tantrums may vary and can involve total explosions of anger, frustration and unexplained behaviour such as screaming, crying, kicking, falling down, flailing around or running away. In more extreme instances children can hold their breath, vomit, bite or throw things.

Don’t dismiss a tantrum. Although there may be no obvious reason for your child’s behaviour, don’t think they’re just being silly, there are real causes. Toddlers don’t have the language skills to express themselves clearly and don’t have the ability to understand the complexity of their feelings.


Causes of temper tantrums

  • Hunger, stress, tiredness or overstimulation
  • Temperament can affect how emotional children become when feeling frustrated. Some children simply have more tantrums than others.
  • Situations that children just can’t cope with such as having to share toys
  • Attention seeking.

Dealing with a tantrum

  • Stay calm which isn’t always easy if you’re in a public place! If you fuss or get angry you are likely to make things worse.
  • Try and identify what the trigger might be. Is it hunger or tiredness?
  • Try not to rush them, as this may cause stress and trigger a meltdown. Are you saying ‘No’ a lot? We do have to say no at times but if this becomes an automatic response, it’s understandable that a child could find it frustrating. If there isn’t a good reason to say no, find ways to say yes sometimes.
  • Your toddler is desperate to have some control, but too many choices can be overwhelming, so give them controlled choices. For example, do you want to wear the blue t-shirt or the white t-shirt? Which yoghurt? Banana or strawberry?
  • Learn to spot the triggers and use distraction techniques before the tantrum escalates; for example, look at that lovely flower over there, or tell them a joke! 
  • Give plenty of warning if you’re taking your child away from something fun. For example, ‘There’s time for one more go on the slide, we have to leave the park in 5 minutes.’
  • Don’t give in as this will reward the bad behaviour.
  • Tantrums aren’t a reflection on your parenting skills, just the frustration of your child. 

Below are a few websites that you may find useful. Some also have forums and blogs with hints and tips from parents to parents.

Useful Links

Nhs - temper tantrums

Mumsnet - tantrums - tackle terrible twos

Jo Frost - toddler rules

Tamba - preschool years behaviour