Easy Ways to Deal With Child Tantrums

child and parent playing happily feeling calm

Child tantrums are a common behaviour in young children, but that doesn’t make them easy to deal with as a parent!

Some children seem to have them all the time, while others rarely do. Over time, children gradually and naturally grow out of having tantrums.

Why do children have tantrums?

Young children often won’t know why they’re having a tantrum. They aren’t choosing to behave this way. It’s a natural reaction to the overwhelming feelings they’re experiencing.

Tantrums are your child’s way of telling you they’re unhappy about something. When they feel overwhelmed by these emotions, they might scream, shout, hit and kick, or lie on the floor.

child crying parent giving comfort

Children’s emotions are powerful. They may tantrum because they feel jealous or left out, because they want something they can’t have, or because they feel a need for your attention.

Young children find it hard to express themselves and can tantrum out of sheer frustration at not being able to communicate. 

Often there is a physical need behind this behaviour, such as feeling hungry, tired, or bored. You might spot that your child is more likely to have a tantrum at a particular time of day, such as just before a meal or near bedtime. 

What age do children have tantrums?

Children often start having tantrums from around 18-months old. This is a time of huge developmental change for your child.

By the age of four, child tantrums are far less common. You may notice a gradual decrease in the amount your child has until they simply grow out of them. 

If your child is still having tantrums as a much older child, you could talk with your child’s school or GP to explore why they may be feeling angry or frustrated. 

How can you support with child tantrums?

You can often spot the warning signs that your child is about to have a tantrum. Try distracting them before it starts. Get them involved when out shopping and think about if they could be hungry, thirsty or tired.

When your child is having a tantrum, try to stay calm. Shouting and getting angry won’t help them calm down any quicker. Tantrums can be very embarrassing for you, but ignore any people around you. Most will be parents who have been through the exact same experience themselves.

Children can’t listen well when they’re experiencing strong emotions, so don’t try to talk to your child about why they’re behaving this way. Give them time to calm down.

Child having a tantrum lying on the floor

Instead, empathise with them and name the emotion so they understand how they’re feeling. You could say, “You’re feeling angry because I said you couldn’t have any sweets. I know it’s hard when you want something and you can’t have it.”

Stay strong when your child has a tantrum over something you’ve said. You might be tempted to bribe them to stop, especially if you’re feeling embarrassed. However, your child can quickly learn that tantrums are a good way to get what they want if you always give in to them.

Find out more 

If you get big reactions, or tantrums when you ask your child to do something, check out our free video Support Talk series, called The Ask.

It will help you understand the reasons behind the behaviour and help you find ways to get the whole family communicating more effectively.

Next steps

We run regular webinars and parenting classes if you find your child’s behaviour challenging. We’ll help you understand the reasons behind their behaviour and share practical solutions you can use at home. Browse our upcoming events.