The Do’s and Don’ts of Dealing with Toddler Tantrums

Most temper tantrums occur in children when they are between the ages of one and four, and over 50 percent of toddlers experience at least one tantrum a week. Some young children communicate their frustrations by throwing tantrums, which causes frustrations for parents as well. Tantrums are normal for young children, who outgrow them as they learn to role-model self-control and acquire better means of communication. However, you must deal with those tantrums in the meantime.

To Prevent Temper Tantrums

It is always preferable to prevent tantrums rather than manage them after they start.

1. Do reward positive behavior, especially during situations that often result in tantrums. Look for something positive to praise children for so they will receive attention for being good.
2. Don’t ask children if they want to do something that they must do. Simply tell them to do it.
3. Do let children have control over some situations. For instance, let them decide whether to put their pajamas on before or after they brush their teeth.
4. Do keep forbidden items out of sight to prevent temptations.
5. Do direct children to another activity to distract them from something they should not do.
6. Do practice consistency so children will know what to expect. Keep the same nap times and bedtimes if possible. Set reasonable boundaries and be consistent about them.
7. Do plan methods of avoiding tantrums by bringing a snack or small toy on shopping trips and scheduling errands for times when children will not be tired or hungry.

Responding to Temper Tantrums

1. Do ignore the tantrum if possible. If children learn a tantrum brings attention, they will be more likely to repeat the unwanted behavior.
2. Don’t let the situation frustrate you. Keeping yourself under control is very important to avoid escalating the tantrums and to prevent future occurrences.
3. Don’t reward children by giving in to their demands after a tantrum. This encourages them to use the same negative tactics again.
4. Do assure children that you love them no matter what, but explain that there is a better way to get what they want.


Robert G. Harrington, PhD, University of Kansas
Jay Hoecker, M.D., emeritus pediatrics specialist, Mayo Clinic
KidsHealth from Nemours

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