Effective Ways To Handle Your Child's Tantrums

Tantrums are part of childhood but handling them right is definitely not child's play! How can you be firm and gentle in correcting this behaviour? Find out from an expert and other parents.

By Team ParentCircle  • 11 min read

Effective Ways To Handle Your Child's Tantrums

Throwing tantrums is common among children. Lack of adequate language skills, hunger, or feeling upset or stressed — anything can make a child lose control of his emotions.

While it is easy in some children to control the tantrum, it's not so in a few. Parents of such children feel confused and unsure how to handle this behaviour in their child.

We spoke to some parents who did not know what to do when their child begins throwing a tantrum. Read on to find out what the parents had to say and the solutions suggested by our experts.

My five-year-old child throws tantrums like there is no tomorrow. He throws things around the house, shouts and cries till he gets what he wants. How can I handle my child's tantrums? Please help!
– Sahiti, Pune

Sahiti’s problem is very common, yet solutions are not easy. Let’s now look at what other parents have to say about this. We also bring you an expert perspective to help you deal with tantrums. So, what are you waiting for? Get started now.

Parent speak 

We need help too!

Kamala G: I’m sailing in the same boat!

Asha Kishore: My five-year-old doesn't listen to me at all. His dad fulfils all his desires, and that's why he has started behaving like this. Sometimes, it is really irritating and frustrating. Once he starts crying, he goes on for hours.

Ignorance is bliss

Aarthi M: Stop giving him what he wants. Let him throw all the tantrums. Then, when he cools down, tell him that he must behave if he wants something.

Gauthami Ramachandran: Ignore the tantrums ... don't give in to his demands ... it's just a phase.

Pritika Agarwal: Reward good behaviour and ignore him when he throws tantrums. Rope in the entire family, particularly grandparents (if they're around).

A united approach helps when dealing with children. Consult a child psychologist if the above doesn’t work. After all, we want our child to feel loved and cherished too.

Gain his trust

Mahima Kapoor: My three-year-old was just the same. I started giving him everything he wanted in order to gain his trust. But, after six months, I started saying 'No' and gently made him understand why. Now, he is four years old and listens to me. Don't worry. It's just a phase.

Kalai L: If you are willing to put up with anything wrong, children will keep doing it. There is always a full stop for everything!

Try sleep talk therapy

R Priya: Sleep talk therapy works. When your child is about to sleep, keep your right hand on the left side of his chest. Talk to him, but make sure whatever you say is in the present positive tense. It works miraculously. For example, you might say: 'Arnav is a very good boy. He listens to mom, eats healthy food'.

Sarita Prakash: A firm approach is needed and yes sleep talk therapy truly helps. I followed it with my son. Though he is not a child who throws many tantrums, it makes him a better person.

Poor health?

Prachi K: Look out for iron deficiency.

Neeti Surabhi: Get the child's eyesight checked. Sometimes, it could be more than just a tantrum.

Be firm

Felina: Your child needs to learn to take a 'No' and behave. Don't give him what he wants (till he behaves).

R Dilipan: Children should never be allowed to push for undue demands, no matter how much we love them. They should be very politely made to understand the same in the early years of their life. We, as parents, must act both ways (when required strictly and when required politely) with our children.

Divert his attention and energy

Pooja Nair: Divert your child's attention to something he likes. When he has done something right, reward him with the thing he wants and tell him he's getting it for that reason.

Tina Karthik: My mom gave me an advice and that works well for my five-year-old daughter. Divert her attention to something more interesting which she will not be able to ignore. Say something funny or just sit and discuss an interesting story. She will get diverted. Once she is calm, explain politely but firmly that it's bad manners to cry the way she did.

Divert your child's attention to something more interesting which she will not be able to ignore.

Expert Speak

Children throwing tantrums is a common problem, but it is surprising to see the different ways parents deal with it. So, what’s an expert’s take on it? Here's what Arundhati Swamy, renowned counsellor and Head, Parent Engagement Programmes, ParentCircle, has to say:

Some of the ideas given by parents are great ways to handle tantrums. Instead of rewarding the child for good behaviour with material gifts, try gifting her experiences. It can be a visit to the aquarium, a game night or baking a cake. Also, give specific praises for ‘being good’ and ‘doing good’ by spelling out the act. Diverting the attention works best for toddlers (2–3 years). Involving grandparents is a smart idea. Ignoring such behaviour can work but is not always the appropriate response. After all, it is possible that a child's consistent difficult behaviour is because of an underlying physiological complaint. You must remember that a tantrum is a child’s way of communicating a need and its accompanying emotions. This is because she lacks the language skills to express herself.
While tantrums are natural during early childhood, they should begin to subside after four years. An occasional tantrum is acceptable after the child turns five. Knowing why your child throws tantrums and how best to handle them can relieve the stress and minimise the frequency.
Research says that ignoring a child’s tantrums can make him feel undervalued or abandoned in his moments of distress. So, what’s the best way to handle a tantrum? It all depends on the reason and the type of tantrum. Children also throw a tantrum because they dislike being disturbed

Intentional and emotional tantrums

Intentional tantrum

This is when a child uses demanding behaviours to get what she wants or refuses to do something that is expected of her. She has clearly made up her mind on something and is testing the limits to see how far she can go and whether you will finally give in. Stay firm and avoid long-winding explanations and negotiations. This will make your child realise that her strategy is not going to work.

Children also throw a tantrum because they dislike being disturbed when engrossed in an activity. So, you can give a cue that the activity must wind up in a few minutes. Offer the option of continuing it later.

Since intentional tantrums are triggered by the ‘thinking’ part of the brain, parents’ responses must be logical, with clear instructions on what constitutes acceptable behaviour. While firmness is recommended for dealing with an intentional tantrum, do allow for the occasional flexibility.

Emotional tantrum

This type of tantrum occurs when your child is struggling with some feeling and needs your attention. She is probably tired, hungry, afraid, frustrated or is uncomfortable with any recent changes. These reactions are coming from the child’s emotional brain; so, you need to connect with your child emotionally and help her calm down with a warm touch and kind words. Make sure her need is met. Later, when the child is in a calmer state, teach her how to express her needs and feelings instead of throwing a tantrum. A rested, contented and settled child is more likely to receive your logical explanation well.

What to do about the yelling and screaming

A tantrum follows a 3-step course. It begins with the child crying (loudly), yelling and then kicking. Stepping in to contain the tantrum at this stage is most effective. Choose your response based on the type of tantrum — Intentional or Emotional. Ignoring the Intentional tantrum when it starts can be effective because it gives a clear message that the parent is not going to give in. Any hesitation, doubt or helplessness on your part is a cue for the child to push and try his luck. The tantrum enters the second stage when the child escalates the uncontrollable behaviour by screaming, rolling on the floor or banging the head. This is the stage where the tantrum is touching its peak, but will soon subside. No amount of reasoning or instruction will work because the child is in a heightened emotional state. All you can do is help the child calm down. Finally, the behaviour subsides into sobbing and whimpering. Comfort the tired and exhausted child. Leave the teaching and guidance for later, when both you and your child are in a more cheerful mood.

Do keep these points in mind the next time your child throws a tantrum. Understand why your child throws tantrums, connect with his feelings. Take steps to minimise these not-so-pleasant moments.

See also: 7 Practical Tips to Control Temper Tantrums in Pre-schoolers

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