Tantrums 101: A Survival Guide


Tantrums…every mom knows the word, although I’m sure we wish we didn’t.

Before I was a mom I naively thought that my kids wouldn’t throw tantrums. I thought it was something the parents were or weren’t doing. Boy was I wrong.

Every kid throws tantrums. Let me repeat that. EVERY kid throws tantrums.

I’m sure there is some child psychologist who could explain it better, but as kids grow, they begin asserting their independence and trying to figure out how to express their emotions. If they are frustrated or upset, young children will often respond with hitting, kicking, screaming, etc.

I don’t think any person would say that this behavior is OK. Ever met an adult that still throws tantrums? I have, and it’s not pretty! So we all, as parents, know that we don’t want our children to respond to their emotions this way, so we work on helping them understand how to express themselves in a way that is appropriate. Now, how parents approach this goal will differ from family to family, and I’m not about to touch on the discipline/positive reinforcement topic in this post 🙂

But what I do want to share is some things I’ve learned as I’ve navigated the toddler tantrums. I am by no means an expert, but I’ve definitely learned a thing or two from my failures and my “successes” (if you can call them that).


[typography font=”Satisfy” size=”24″ size_format=”px” color=”#381b5e”]1. Stay calm[/typography]

I know this is easier said than done, trust me. When your child is screaming in your face, hitting you, etc. the LAST thing you want to do is stay calm. Maybe your reaction is to lash out in return. Or perhaps you want to burst into tears (as I often do). Or maybe, just maybe, you want to laugh uncontrollably (I’ve been known to fight back laughter during a tantrum or two). I get it- trust me. But it is so important that we stay calm. Especially if you feel your anger rising.

[typography font=”Satisfy” size=”24″ size_format=”px” color=”#381b5e”]2. Can’t stay calm? Remove yourself[/typography]

Can’t stay calm? Leave your child and go to another room. Or maybe the bathroom with a bag of chocolates and a bottle of wine (just kidding…maybe). No seriously, take some space. I find that if I’m getting worked up, I can calm myself down by taking even just a minute to separate myself from the situation, take some deep breaths, and remember that my child is not the devil incarnate.

[typography font=”Satisfy” size=”24″ size_format=”px” color=”#381b5e”]3. Remove your child[/typography]

Is your child getting super worked up? Trying to engage with them in that moment is a recipe for disaster. I’ve definitely learned this the hard way. If they are super upset, engaging with them will only lead to screams, hits, kicks, etc. They need that space to calm themselves down. We use a time out spot for Nora to calm down. I usually leave here there for 3 minutes (thanks Super Nanny for teaching me that the minutes should correlate with their age) and by the end of the three minutes she has usually calmed down to where we can have a conversation.

[typography font=”Satisfy” size=”24″ size_format=”px” color=”#381b5e”]4. Talk with your child[/typography]

Once everyone has calmed down, take the time to talk to them about what happened. Get down on their level and look at them in the eyes, so they know that you are listening to them.

Allow them to express what was so upsetting to them. I think sometimes we forget that this is important because we are so caught up in our frustration at the situation. But whatever caused the tantrum was a real emotion for them. Now, how they responded was not appropriate, but their feelings were real. Allow them to express it and talk about. Then take the time to reinforce proper ways that we can handle our emotions and why kicking, hitting, screaming, etc. is not the way to do it.

[typography font=”Satisfy” size=”24″ size_format=”px” color=”#381b5e”]5. Give hugs and kisses[/typography]

I’ve learned how important this part is. Nora will often say sorry at this point and I always make sure to express to her that I forgive her and that I love her very much. Then there is hugs and kisses all around. I make sure to do this even if I don’t FEEL like doing this. Most of the time, by this point, I’m over my own anger or frustration, but there are still times that I’m pretty pissed. But I try to remember that in this moment it isn’t about me. It’s about making sure that she knows that things are OK between us and that I love her no matter what.

[typography font=”Satisfy” size=”24″ size_format=”px” color=”#381b5e”]6. Brace yourself for the next one, because we all know there’s a next one[/typography]

There ya have it…my tips for surviving those wonderful tantrums.

What tips do you have for surviving tantrums?


  1. […] For example, ever hear of the kids that hold their breath until they pass out when they are upset? Well come to find out that isn’t a stubborn thing at all. Ever since Zayne was 1 we have been dealing with these “breath-holding spells” in where he gets so upset he can’t actually breathe, he never starts crying, his eyes roll in the back of his head, and boom, he passes out (sometimes followed by a mini seizure). It sounds terrifying and it very much was at first. Now we just know to pick him up before he passes out and hold him until he comes too. He literally gets so upset that he can’t control his emotions. Our doctors have told us he will grow out of them and for the most part he seems like he is already. But let me tell you, this appears to only be the beginning of his spirited nature (we have now replaced passing out with a 1 hour plus daily tantrum). […]

  2. Thanks for this Nissa! I AM a child therapist and yes, yes, yes to everything you said! Tantruming is normal developmental behavior and some kids–especially kids who feel feeling REALLY BIG–will tantrum a LOT. It’s our opportunity to teach them both appropriate behavior (Use your words, not ok to hit, etc) and to validate feelings while teaching them how to feel a feeling without letting it overtake you. One of my 15 month olds is showing early robust signs of being a tantrumer and we are gearing up for some tough years I think. I find the hardest part is keeping my own feelings in check and maintaining consistency. Good post!


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