Tackling Tantrums

As young children develop their ability to feel and express strong emotions, they may still lack self-control and struggle to understand and communicate what they are feeling. Tantrums are a natural part of a young child’s development; here is how they can be anticipated, avoided, or massaged.


Possible Causes

Young children may be hungry or tired, or even not feeling well. They may also feel unsafe or insecure if their routine and/or environment has changed. Children may also be frustrated with expressing their emotions, or they may even be confused by their own emotions.


In the Midst of a Tantrum

Unfortunately, toddlers and young children will have difficulty listening to reason in the middle of a tantrum. Yelling or berating a child for this behavior will have a negative effect on the situation. Instead, parents or caregivers might try acknowledging the child’s feelings, staying physically close during the outburst so as to protect and keep the child safe, and definitely NOT hitting or physically hurting the child. Children learn by watching the adults around them, and a physical response absolutely teaches the wrong lesson about self-control.


Instead, parents and caregivers can give children appropriate choices about solving the problem at hand. Additionally, parents can help suggest labels for the child’s emotions, such as angry, sad, or frustrated. Labels that judge, such as bad, spoiled, or whiny are less than ideal.


Most importantly, praise positive behavior and encourage it to continue.


Click here to read about helping your child cope with tantrums from the blog Babies to Big Kids, a collaboration between Southwest Human Development and Raising Arizona Kidsmagazine.

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