Temper tantrums are a normal part of childhood development. Children between 1 and 3 years old have difficulty expressing their emotions effectively, so they express them by crying, screaming, and sometimes even stomping their feet. Children understand language better than they can express it. Once children develop their vocabulary, they will begin to use words to communicate instead of temper tantrums.
With a little planning, there are some things you can do to stop a tantrum before it happens, such as:
It's difficult knowing how to respond to a child who may be on the floor kicking, screaming, and crying. While you can't reason with a child in the midst of a tantrum, there are some things you can do.
Because temper tantrums are a normal part of childhood development, you should never punish your child for having a temper tantrum. Children need to be able to express their emotions. Punishing a child for having a temper tantrum sends the message that anger or frustration should be kept inside, which is unhealthy.
However, you also should not offer rewards. Don't give in to a temper tantrum. Providing your child with the toy they are screaming for only teaches the child that their communication methods worked.
While temper tantrums are difficult to quell, they are also a stage that your child must go through. Most children outgrow them once they are able to communicate effectively using a vocabulary that you help them build over time.
If you are concerned about the frequency, intensity, or duration of your child's temper tantrums, it is best to discuss them with your child's doctor.
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
Canadian Institute of Child Health
Temper tantrums. Nemours Kid's Health website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/parent/emotions/behavior/tantrums.html. Updated April 2015. Accessed June 23, 2016.
Top tips for surviving temper tantrums. American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children website. Available at: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/family-dynamics/communication-discipline/pages/Temper-Tantrums.aspx. Updated November 21, 2015. Accessed June 23, 2016.
Last reviewed June 2016 by Michael Woods, MD Last Updated: 7/18/2014