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Temper Tantrums - Home Treatment

Expect your 1- or 2-year-old to have temper tantrums. In this age group tantrums are a normal part of learning independence and mastery. If your young child has temper tantrums, try the following:

  • Ignore the behavior. Sometimes ignoring the tantrum works best, especially since tantrums usually last less than 2 minutes and attempts to stop a tantrum usually make it worse. When you stop responding to your child's temper tantrums, the behavior may get worse for a few days before it stops. Ignoring some temper tantrums (such as when a child has one because he or she does not want to go to bed, or is kicking, biting, and pinching) may not be possible.
  • Praise your child for calming down. After a tantrum, comfort your child without giving in to his or her demands. Tell your child that he or she was out of control and needed time to calm down. Never make fun of or punish a child who has had a temper tantrum. Don't use words like "bad girl" or "bad boy" to describe your child during a temper tantrum.
  • Acknowledge the feeling. After your child is calm, acknowledge his or her feelings of frustration and anger. You might say, "I know that you were frustrated because you could not tie your shoes."
  • Teach other ways to handle anger and frustration. Teaching a child different ways to deal with negative emotions may reduce the number of temper tantrums a child has or prevent temper tantrums from getting worse. Offer simple suggestions to help a child learn self-control. For example, encourage your child to use words to express feelings or establish a safe, comfortable place in the home where your child can go to calm down. Look for times that your child acts in a positive way, and thank your child for his or her actions.
  • Encourage taking a break from a frustrating activity or redirect the child to a task he or she has already mastered.
  • Be a good role model. Children often learn by watching their parents. Set a good example by handling your own frustration calmly.

During a tantrum, you can help your child by:

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  • Remaining calm.
  • Staying where the child can see you, especially if the child is very young.
  • Sending the child to his or her room until he or she is calm, if the child is old enough to understand why this is being done.
  • Removing any dangerous furniture or objects within the child's reach. If there are too many objects that could hurt the child, you may need to move the child to a safe place. Sometimes you may need to physically hold a younger child to prevent injury.
  • Being firm and consistent about what you expect. Do not give in to the child's demands.
  • Not trying to reason with the child during the tantrum. Talk calmly to the child if this works for him or her. But don't lecture, threaten, or argue with the child.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 20, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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