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HELP!! My child Has Tantrums…

By Gopi K. Patel, MSE.d


“My child often has tantrums 3-4 times a day—Help me—I can’t take these tantrums anymore,” is often a statement I hear from parents. Tantrums are part of growing up for every child; it is how we deal with them as parents that will determine how long they will continue.


The truth is tantrums are a LEARNED behavior. Even if it just happens once the child learns that when I cry, scream, throw myself on the floor—kicking and arms in every direction, “I WILL GET MY WAY”.


Tantrums usually occur when a child wants something and is frustrated because she can’t have it right away. When this happens parents usually give into the tantrum because they feel helpless. The problem is that as time goes by, with each episode the tantrums often get worse in their intensity, duration, and frequency.

To rid our world of tantrums, we as parents need not only learn how to deal with them once they occur, but identify a potential tantrum before it has begun.


Before the tantrum: The tell-tale signs of an on-coming tantrum are often whining, talking in a baby voice, repeating phrases over and over again, all with the intention to get his or her way. When the signs first appear say to your child (in business like voice),“use your big boy/girl voice and then I can talk to you”. If your child then asks for the same thing simply state, “you cannot have that right now. We are done talking about this now.” Repeat this as many times as necessary. Do not give in to them.


The tantrum has begun: Once a tantrum has begun walk out of the room or area you are in and ignore your child (if at home it often helps to go in a room where she cannot join you such as the bathroom/bedroom). If your child grabs on to you simply ignore them and go on with your task. If the tantrum starts getting severe in intensity where the child could hurt herself, others, or the environment— immediately remove her to a safe time out area. Then, simply state to her, “when you are quiet and ready to be with me I will come get you”. (It should be noted that a child should always know what your time out procedure is, before this is attempted).


Never give in because you feel your child has been in the time out too long. You are not a horrible parent if you let your child tantrum for a long period of time. Your child, just like you, is learning a new way of dealing with behaviors and consequences.


After the tantrum: once your child has been quiet for a couple minutes go to her and say “I am glad you are ready”/”I am glad to see you happy again”. At this point parents often get caught up in talking about the episode that triggered the tantrum, instead of dwelling on this, move on to the next activity or task. If she begins to cry and tantrum again—simply start the process all over again.

Here are some suggestions that have helped many of the families that I have worked with. It should be noted that the parents who were most successful in preventing tantrums dealt with these events in the most CONSISTENT manner. Every family is different, and unique, but every child needs LOVE, CONSISTENCY, and a POSITIVE ENVIRONMENT to grow in to his/her fullest potential.


Helpful Hints for Dealing with Tantrums:

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