Temper Tantrums

Little boy is crying in the bed

Temper tantrums are the emotional outbursts commonly seen in toddlers in the form of stubbornness, anger ranting, whining, crying, defiance, resistance to attempts at pacification and, in some cases, breath holding or hitting and other physically violent behaviour. They are a normal part of child development, usually start at 12-18 months of age and get worse between 2-3 years old. Temper tantrums gradually improve once children are able to use words to communicate their wants and needs.

Children who have speech and language delays and neurological disorders such as autism or intellectual disability could be more vulnerable to tantrums than others. Anyone may be prone to tantrums once in a while, regardless of gender or age.


Children may have a temper tantrum if they:

  • Do not understand what you are saying or asking
  • Are upset when others cannot understand them
  • Are hungry, tired, anxious, bored or uncomfortable
  • Do not know how to tell you how they feel or what they need
  • Do not know how to solve problems on their own
  • Have diseases that keep them from expressing how they feel
  • Are reacting to stress or changes at home
  • Are jealous, want what other children have, or want the attention others receive
  • Are not able to do as much as they think they can, such as walking, running, climbing, drawing, or making toys work


10 Ways to Prevent Temper Tantrums:

  1.  Set a good example and avoid arguing or yelling in front of your children
  2. Make sure that your children are well rested and have healthy snacks ready for when they get hungry.
  3. Encourage your kids to use words to tell you how they are feeling. You can suggest words they can use to describe their feelings.
  4. Stick to a daily routine as much as possible so that your children know what to expect.
  5. Set reasonable limits and don’t expect your children to be perfect. Give simple reasons for the rules and do not change them.
  6. Distract your children. Try a new game, book, or toy. Sometimes a change in location can prevent a tantrum. For example, if you are indoors, go outside to look for birds in the sky.
  7. Avoid situations that frustrate your children like playing with toys that are too advanced.
  8. Give choices. For example, make it clear that while they have to take a bath, they can make decisions on their own. Be sure the choices you offer are acceptable to you
  9. When you are on a long trip, bring along a favourite book or toy.
  10. Be choosy about saying no. When you say no to everything, it may frustrate your children. Consider saying yes sometimes. Praise your children when they do something good that otherwise might have led to frustration.

What to Do if a Temper Tantrum Starts:

  1. Give time: Once children begin a tantrum, only they can end it. Allow them the time and space to be left alone (in a safe place) to let the tantrum run its course. All tantrums end, almost always by a child’s path to resolution. Trying to finish one early usually delays the child’s resolution.
  2. Try to stay calm: If you shout or get angry, it can make things worse. And, if you can’t remain calm, leave the room. Wait a minute or two, or until the crying stops, before returning.
  3. Offer a cooling down time and place or a timeout.
  4. Ignore minor displays of anger like crying, screaming, or kicking.Try touching or holding your kids to calm them. Or, try standing nearby without talking until they calm down. If your children have tantrums in a public place, take them home or to the car.

Say “NO” strictly to behaviours such as:

  • Hitting or kicking others
  • Throwing things that might hurt someone or break something
  • Screaming or yelling for a long time

 Do Not:

  •  Do not punish for temper tantrums: This is unhealthy as they will start keeping their anger and frustration inside.
  • Do not give in to your children just to stop a tantrum: This will teach your children that temper tantrums get them what they want.
  • Don’t feel guilty about saying ‘no’ to your children. Set the rules and stick to them. Discuss with those who care for your kids which rules are really needed and how to be firm about them.

Parental containment where a child cannot contain itself, rather than what the child is ostensibly demanding, may be what is really required

 Visit Your Paediatrician if You Feel:

  • Temper tantrums are not reducing after three years of age
  • Child’s behaviour is not entirely normal and healthy in between tantrums
  • If outbursts are too severe and occur too often
  • If your child seems to be having difficulty expressing themselves with words (compared with other children of the same age)
  • If they harm themselves or others
  • Hold breath and faint
  • If tantrums get worse after four years of age


Written By:

Dr Archana Verma
Specialist Pediatrician
PRIMACARE Speciality Clinic Center, Bur Dubai

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