Acting Out: Why Tantrums Happen and What Parents Can Do

We’ve all been there. The meltdown at the grocery store, the screaming fit right before the big family photo. Tantrums are a bummer, no question.

Some kids are more tantrum-prone, especially kids who are high energy or moody. These children often don’t adapt well to new environments and transitions can be tough. They have yet to develop patience coupled with the fact that they have yet to develop anger management.

And if they are tired, bored, hungry, or recovering from being sick, the slightest thing can set off young children. Any change may spawn a tantrum when the threshold is low to begin with.

The first step in diffusing a temper tantrum is to check your own temper. Out-screaming your kid will not help in the long run. Take a full breath, gain control over your emotions, and then discipline your child by calmly but firmly letting him know that tantrums are not acceptable behavior.


So here is your Tantrum Prevention Checklist:

  • Keep your daily routine as consistent as possible
  • Give your child a five-minute warning before changing activities.
  • Predict situations in which tantrums are likely to erupt.
  • Communicate with your toddler. Don’t underestimate his ability to understand what you are saying. Tell him the plan for the day and stick to your routine to minimize surprises.
  • Allow your child to take a toy or snack with her while you run errands.
  • Make sure your child is getting good sleep and eating healthy food.
  • Minimize off-limit temptations
  • Give your toddler a little bit of control. Giving them little choices won’t make much of a difference to you, but they’ll make your child feel as though she has a little control.
  • Pick your battles. Can you be flexible with some of the smaller things?
  • A young child’s attention is fleeting and easy to divert. When your child’s face starts to screw up in that telltale way, open a book or offer to go on a walk to the park. Sometimes, humor helps.
  • Teach your child other ways of dealing with frustration. Children who are old enough to talk can be reminded to use their words instead of screaming.


If your child still won’t calm down and you know the tantrum is just a ploy to get your attention, let it happen. The grownups in the supermarket understand, as long as they see you are remaining calm and not giving in. Let him or her expend the energy, as they might just need to blow off some steam. Then when your child is calm, discuss it, and how it is possible to make other choices in expressing ourselves that don’t make us feel worse. Your child will get there – it is part of life.





About Susie Almaneih

Susie Almaneih spent several years during her young adulthood teaching children dance at her church group, as well as other cultural-based activities. Susie now spends as much time as she can giving back to the families in her community. Over the years, this love for community has evolved into a deeper love for delivering positive and creative content and awareness to families of all ages.

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