Toddler Behaviour: Taming Toddler Tantrums


Leonardo Rocker

Toddler Behaviour: Taming Toddler Tantrums

Most parents have experienced their toddler's challenging behaviour at some point whether it's the "terrible twos" or for that matter, threes, fours or more. Watching your child scream, kick or throw himself to the ground in exasperation is never easy, yet as a parent, what's important, is being able to look beyond the red-faced anger and recognise what your child is actually trying to communicate.

Many young children throw tantrums when they are experiencing a range of emotions such as anger, fear, sadness, frustration and jealousy. Regardless of your child’s motivation, it is important for parents to help their children understand that tantrums and associated behaviours such as biting, pinching and hair-pulling are not always acceptable and that there are better ways to express their feelings.

Ways to Manage Toddler Behavior:

  • Use a gentle yet firm and fast response. When your child acts aggressively, unclamp your child’s hand or mouth, and say something like “no hurting”. Then, temporarily remove them from the situation, or away from the stimulus. It may take a few repetitions for children to understand that what they are doing is not allowed.
  • Consider the triggers. Sometimes children act aggressively because they are bored or seeking attention. If parents are able to recognize this then they may be able to target why the behaviour is occurring and deal with it accordingly.
  • Use positive reinforcement. Always praise your child’s good behaviour and use resources like the Tickets - a Tool to tame Behaviour by Quirky Kid
  • Use feeling words. By assigning words to your child’s feelings or emotive states, they will eventually learn to identify how they are feeling themselves, by using such words. Although this may take a long time especially if your child is very young, eventually your child will be able to use these words to both describe and take control of her own feelings without resorting to tantrums or violence.
  • Be Consistent. It is important not to give in to whatever your child was wanting which triggered the tantrum.

What not to do:

  • While some parents may think that in order to get their child to stop a behaviour they should show them how it feels by doing it to them, this is certainly is not the recommended approach to take. Parents should never bite, pinch or pull their child’s hair just to show them how much it hurts. Regardless of the parents’ intention, this is actually a form of child abuse and is punishable by law.

How to prevent tantrums from occurring

  • Teach your child to use 'feeling words'. Give him the tools to communicate what's going on so that he doesn't need to resort to tantrums or violence.
  • Use resources like the Tickets - a Tool to tame Behaviour by Quirky Kid
  • Try to avoid taking your child on outings when he is likely to get hungry or tired. Always have a snack handy.
  • Distract her from potential tantrum triggers with a story or another activity she enjoys.
  • Take note of events that trigger tantrums and try to understand what causes them in your child.

Further Reading


On-Air Consult Meltdown Mode - Tips to calm a toddler in distress

View article references

  • Information for this article was gathered from Kimberley O'Brien - Child Psychologist
  • Raising Children Network
  • Youth and Women's Health Service and NSW Department of Community Services

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