Temper tantrums in children are short episodes of unpleasant and, sometimes, aggressive behaviors as an expression of frustration or anger (1). Often, it may be embarrassing and frustrating when a toddler acts out and throws tantrums, and as a parent, you may feel worried. However, temper tantrums are usually not problematic but part of a child’s normal development and growth.
Read this post to learn about the causes of temper tantrums and how to stop your child from throwing tantrums.
What Are Temper Tantrums?
When toddlers and younger children are angry or frustrated, they may throw temper tantrums, also known as “rages” in older children. Aggressive tantrum behaviors such as sobbing, yelling, hitting, flailing, throwing objects, holding one’s breath, biting, or pushing are commonly associated with temper tantrums, especially in toddlers (1).
At What Age Should A Child Stop Having Tantrums?
Tantrums appear in children at around 12–18 months but generally peak at two to three years. However, they are uncommon in school-aged children and slowly disappear as a child’s ability to communicate their wants and needs improves (2) (3).
What Causes Temper Tantrums in Children?
Your child may throw temper tantrums due to various reasons. Some common triggers are (1) (2)
- Physiological stressors such as hunger, weariness, or sickness
- Frustration and anger
- Lack of parental attention, especially when among siblings
- Transitions such as moving from one place to another
- Irritation or distress when elders intercept their work and hinder their independence
- Inability to manage strong emotions due to a lack of coping abilities
- Inability to convey their feelings due to a lack of verbal skills
- Inability to get what they desire
Sometimes, language delays, learning disabilities, and childhood psychiatric disorders may cause difficulty regulating emotions and result in temper tantrums. Some psychiatric disorders are attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD) (5).
When Should You Worry About Temper Tantrums In Children?
Temper tantrums that occur once a day and last for 2–15 minutes on average are not worrisome. However, consulting your healthcare provider may be useful in the following scenarios (4) (6):
- Your child is over four years and still throws aggressive temper tantrums.
- They exhibit excessive tantrums that are frequent, violent, intense, and last longer than 15 minutes.
- They exhibit extreme behaviors such as holding their breath to cause fainting or hurting themselves or others.
How To Prevent Temper Tantrums In Children?
Temper tantrums in children mostly occur instantly without any warning signs. However, sometimes, you can prevent them if you closely observe your child’s behavior.
Here are some tips that may help stop or prevent your child from having temper tantrums (4) (6):
- Do not let your child become tired or hungry. Instead, stick to a routine for meals and naps.
- Give them enough positive attention and praise their good behavior.
- Give them the independence to make reasonable choices.
- Prepare them for transitions, such as going to school or leaving the playground. If they are going to have another sibling, prepare them for the changes.
- Set reasonable parental expectations and do not expect perfect behavior from your child.
- Talk to your child beforehand when you notice they are frustrated or irritated.
- Distract them with toys, games, or other things while frustrated or angry.
- Listen to your child’s needs and help them share their feelings (1).
How Should You Respond To A Child’s Temper Tantrums?
Mostly, temper tantrums in children are unavoidable. In such cases, the following intervention strategies may help you respond appropriately to your child (1) (4):
- Keep calm and stick to your decisions
- Ignore the tantrum
- Distract your child
- Do not agree to their demands as it may encourage them to use these unacceptable behaviors to get their way.
- Ensure your child is within sight to keep them safe.
- Take them to a safe spot to prevent hurting themselves or others, and ensure no dangerous objects are nearby.
- Do not hit or scold them as it may lead them to believe that such actions are acceptable.
- Allow a brief “time-out” to let your child regain control and become calm (6).
Once your child becomes calm and regains control, praise them for calming down, talk to them about their feelings, and teach them to label and deal with emotions without throwing tantrums (4).
Temper tantrums are short episodes of temper outbursts and inappropriate behaviors in 12- to 60-month old children. They slowly resolve when the child learns to communicate and express their feelings. Certain factors, including delays in routine activities, tiredness, and inability to express emotions, may trigger temper tantrums. Distracting your child, listening to their feelings, and allowing independent decision-making can help prevent tantrums in children.