How to Deal With Temper Tantrums

Prevent temper tantrums before they start.
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Does your child throw himself to the ground, scream, and kick his feet? You're not alone. All kids throw temper tantrums every once in a while.

While they can be embarrassing and downright frustrating, temper tantrums can be resolved with a little patience and persistence on your part. These discipline strategies can help your child see that no matter what happens to him, throwing a tantrum won't help.

Reasons for Temper Tantrums

When kids struggle to get a grip on what's going on for them emotionally, they often show their frustration through their behavior. A child who isn't sure how to deal with uncomfortable emotions like anger, sadness, and disappointment, may throw a fit. Screaming and kicking is their way of saying, “Help me, I’m out of control.”

The other main reason kids have tantrums is because they want to take control of the situation. Their goal is to get their way and hope that screaming will get you to do what they want.

When your child exhibits a colossal tantrum, take a minute to examine the underlying reason. Kids have tantrums for two main reasons—an inability to manage their emotions or an attempt to control the situation.


Although not all temper tantrums can be prevented, a few proactive steps can stop many of them before they start.

Take a look at when your child is most likely to exhibit temper tantrums. Is it when he is hungry or too tired? If so, plan ahead and don’t schedule tasks that will be difficult for your child unless he’s had a nap and a healthy snack.

Sometimes tantrums are the result of a child's inappropriate expectations. For example, if your son gets a toy every time he goes to the store with Grandma, he may expect that you’ll buy him a toy as well.

Pre-teaching can be a great way to help kids have realistic expectations. Before you go into the store, explain what he can expect will happen. Say something like, “We are going to buy some groceries and then we are leaving. We aren’t looking at the toys today and we aren’t buying any toys.”

Establish rules before you enter new situations. Explain what you want your child to do by saying, “Walk next to me and keep your hands to yourself.” Warn your child about the consequences if he doesn't follow the rules.

Show your child healthy ways to manage uncomfortable feelings so he knows what to do instead of having a tantrum. Teaching your child about feelings can help him learn socially appropriate ways to deal with them. You can do prompt him to say, “I’m mad,” or show him how to take some deep breaths to calm down.

Don’t Give in to Stop the Temper Tantrum

Make sure temper tantrums aren't effective for your child. If he throws a fit in the store because he wants you to buy him a toy, don’t buy him one. Giving in might make things easier in the short-term because it will make the tantrum stop. In the long run, it will only reinforce to your child that tantrums are a good way to get what he wants.

Reward Kids for Managing Feelings Appropriately

Provide positive consequences when your child behaves appropriately. Praise him for managing his feelings well and point out good behavior. Say something like, “Johnny you did so well in the store today with listening and following directions!”

Reward your child for behaving well. Offer a sticker if he makes it through the store without crying. If he’s unable to wait until the end of the shopping trip, offer stickers every couple of minutes during the trip if he is behaving. These positive discipline strategies take some more effort upfront but can prevent many behavioral issues.

Provide Negative Consequences for Tantrums

Temper tantrums need negative consequences so your child will learn not to throw them. Ignoring the behavior can be a great strategy to reduce tantrums. After all, it's not much fun to pitch a fit without an audience.

Look the other way, pretend you don't hear anything, and act as though you aren't bothered by your child's temper tantrum. Although the screaming may get louder at first, your child will eventually learn that throwing a temper tantrum won't get your attention.

Sometimes, a timeout is warranted as well. If your child’s behaviors are too disruptive for him to remain in a store, for example, take him to the car for a timeout. Then continue your shopping trip when he is calm.

Know that you're not alone in this experience and that most kids follow a pattern. One study observed 330 tantrums in a clinical setting with mothers and their children. They found that most tantrums last for three minutes. Also, it's typical for a tantrum to start off with aggressive behavior, then dissolve into distress. After the study, most parents noted that their child's behavior improved, but when they did have a tantrum again, it followed the typical pattern.

A Word From Verywell

Temper tantrums are common and often a normal part of kids growing up while learning to deal with their emotions. Use some of these techniques to combat the fits and they should become less frequent if you're consistent. The goal is to teach him socially appropriate ways to deal with his big feelings. By teaching him healthier ways to express himself, you're giving him a lesson to use throughout his life.

Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  • Eisbach SS, et al. Characteristics of Temper Tantrums in Preschoolers With Disruptive Behavior in a Clinical Setting. Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services. 2014;52(5):32–40. doi:10.3928/02793695-20140110-02.

By Amy Morin, LCSW
Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She's also a psychotherapist, an international bestselling author of books on mental strength and host of The Verywell Mind Podcast. She delivered one of the most popular TEDx talks of all time.