How to handle tantrums

Having tantrums is a normal part of being a toddler. Toddlers are very emotional and have lots of feelings – but, they haven’t yet learnt how to handle their emotions and reactions.

Young children need reassurance, nurturing and understanding from adults, as they do not understand their ‘big feelings’ (tantrums) and are not able to manage them on their own. Triggers that can spark a young child’s tantrums include being stressed, hungry, tired, frustrated or overstimulated.

If your child is having a tantrum, remember that:

  • they are not ‘doing this on purpose’
  • they need your calming influence to help them through it
  • they cannot calm themselves on their own
  • when the big feelings have passed, they need to know they are still loved

Manage tantrums

Some tips to manage tantrums include:

  • Take a deep breath and keep calm
  • Use distraction whenever possible – this is particularly effective for younger children who have short attention spans.
  • If you know that it helps, and you are somewhere that it is safe to do so, allow your child some space and time on their own until they calm down. Perhaps they may need to stay in their room.
  • Some children become more upset when left alone. If this is the case, keep them close by and make sure they are safe. Console them as soon as the big feeling is over.
  • Recognise when the big feeling has subsided and console the child immediately to reassure them they are okay, and that you love them.
  • Avoid giving in to their demands. If your child is having a big feeling because they don't want to do something – for example, have a bath – wait until they are calm. Then tell them that it's good that they've calmed down, but they still need a bath.
  • Try not to lose your temper. If you feel that you are becoming angry, distract yourself. If it is safe to do so, leave the room, play music, read a magazine or do anything else that works for you.

If you have concerns about your toddler’s behaviour

If you feel that your child is having behavioural difficulties it is important to discuss your concerns with them and ask for outside help when you need it.

You can talk to a nurse by calling the Maternal and Child Health Telephone Line on 13 22 29. You can also talk to the staff at your child care centre or kindergarten.

Child care centres and kindergartens understand the changes children go through during early childhood and can offer advice and support to both you and your child.

You can also speak to your local doctor or community health centre for help and advice.