Temper Tantrums

What to do about temper tantrums? Lexington Clinic Pediatrics Kandi Waddles, MD, Lexington Clinic Pediatrics

When my youngest daughter was 2, I remember standing in the grocery check out line and my daughter throwing a tantrum-screaming, crying, and trying to escape the grocery cart. I looked behind me and there was a well behaved toddler and her mother (both of whom I knew from work)-I was so embarrassed! I am a pediatrician; I should know how to control my child. HA! HA!

Temper tantrums occur in all children usually between the ages of 1 and 3. Children at this age become frustrated when things do not go their way and do not yet have the verbal skills necessary to express themselves. So they do what comes naturally-scream and cry! After age 3, children can usually express themselves with more words and the tantrums will taper off.

Sometimes as parents we can tell if a tantrum is coming. Our child may seem moody, whiny, or difficult; or the tantrum may come on suddenly for no obvious reason. To help reduce the chances of your child having a tantrum, try the following: encourage your child to use words to express her emotions

  • keep a routine, expectable schedule
  • avoid long outings with your child
  • keep healthy snacks available
  • make sure your child is well rested

Another suggestion is to "pick your battles," avoid getting in the habit of always saying no to your child's requests. If a request does not compromise your child's safety and if the request is not too unreasonable, go ahead and say "yes" sometimes.

Sometimes despite all our good intentions aimed at preventing temper tantrums they will occur. A few suggestions for when the dreaded tantrum does occur:

  • Parents - stay calm! If we shout and get angry it will only make things worse
  • Ignore minor displays of anger such as crying or screaming
  • If your child is kicking or hitting or having prolonged screaming, try a "cool-down" period, remove your child from the situation and give her time alone to calm down and regain control

Remember temper tantrums are a normal part of your child's development and as your child gets older she will outgrow temper tantrums. In the meantime, a calm and loving approach will help both you and your child get through this part of childhood.