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Avoiding Temper Tantrums - Topic Overview

Temper tantrums aren't intentional or planned. They are a normal response to anger and other strong emotions. It's best to prevent tantrums if you can. But if you can't, sometimes the best way to deal with a temper tantrum is to ignore the tantrum or distract your child.

Prevent temper tantrums

You may be able to help prevent or reduce how often temper tantrums happen by:

  • Establishing and keeping a regular schedule that includes enough hours of sleep and times set aside for eating meals. Having a predictable routine can help your child to feel in control and stay positive.
  • Knowing what to expect from your child based on his or her age and abilities. Parents who expect too much often correct their child more than they need to or ask the child to do things that he or she isn't able to do. This increases the child's frustration.
  • Allowing your child to make simple choices, such as which vegetable to eat or which shirt to wear. Being able to make choices reduces frustration and helps children develop self-confidence.
  • Setting fair, consistent, and firm limits on the child's behavior. Say "no" when you mean "no." When you say "no," don't change your mind and give in to the child's wishes. This confuses children or teaches them that "no" sometimes means "yes."
  • Removing breakable or valuable possessions from your child's reach. This helps decrease the number of times you need to say "no" to your child.
  • Praising and thanking your child when he or she behaves appropriately and does things that you would expect from a child that age.
  • When your child is calm, listening to your child's concerns and reasons for having a different opinion or idea than you do.

Ignore temper tantrums

Sometimes ignoring a temper tantrum works best. Ways to ignore your child during a tantrum include:

  • Walking away from the child. But for some children this doesn't work. They may feel more out of control, making the temper tantrum worse.
  • Standing about 5 ft (1.5 m) away from the child and continuing to do what you were doing. You can observe without focusing all of your attention on your child.
  • Not talking to the child, if possible. If you do talk to your child, talk in a neutral tone of voice.

Distract your child

You may be able to shorten a tantrum by:

  • Distracting your child or redirecting his or her attention when you notice that your child is becoming frustrated. Young children often aren't aware of their mounting frustration.
  • Removing your child from situations that are likely to trigger a temper tantrum. Young children often aren't aware that certain situations are too much for them to handle. The excitement and activity of certain situations, such as a large family dinner or the lights and noise of a carnival, may trigger a temper tantrum.
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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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