Tantrums are very common in toddlers and younger children and are a normal part of growing up, as the brain develops. Hang in there – tantrums happen less often after children turn four. Sometimes older children can have tantrums too and the tips outlined below may also help children of all ages.
What to do when your child has a tantrum
- Make sure they’re safe. You can’t stop a tantrum. Stay nearby and if needed move them somewhere safe, quiet and calm.
- Stay close and stay calm. It is important that your child knows that you are still there and with them – this might be by saying something reassuring or maintaining eye contact with them.
- Try not to show anger. Counting to ten and taking a few deep breaths might help. Don’t try to reason with them or shout. It’s very hard to think when you are feeling overwhelmed.
- Do not smack or physically punish. This is illegal in Wales. This won't help you to understand what's causing the tantrum.
- When your child has calmed down comfort them and reconnect. Let them know you are proud of them for calming down.
- Don’t worry about what other people think! It can be stressful if your child has a tantrum. Stay calm if there are people watching as they will be sympathetic as they’ve been through it too!
Ways to avoid tantrums
- Think about when tantrums happen. Try and understand why your child is behaving in this way. A useful acronym to remember is HALT – Is your child Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired?
- Is your child worried or anxious about something? Give your child lots of reassurance with love and cuddles.
- Plan ahead. Take some snacks and small toys when you go out and about.
- Give your child some simple choices. Toddlers and young children crave independence. They may get angry and tearful if they are never given any choice or control. You can offer simple choices.
- Help your child express their feelings. Label your child’s feeling, for example when you see that they are happy, sad, cross, disappointed or frustrated. It will help them learn the word for that feeling or emotion so they are able to learn to express how they feel later. This can help them understand and manage their feelings better.
- Make time for active play every day. Make time for active play so your child can “let off steam”. Go to the park, play in the garden or put some music on and dance.
- Show a good example by keeping calm when things get stressful. This will encourage your child to do the same.
- If you are concerned in any way speak to your Health Visitor. Your Health Visitor is there to support you and can provide advice and assistance.
Look after yourself
Meeting up with other parents may help remind you that you're not alone. Your Family Information Service will be able to tell you what’s on in your area.
If you want to learn more about positive parenting, find out what parenting support and groups your Local Authority offer.
Family Lives offer a confidential and free helpline service for families in Wales on any aspect of parenting and family life. To speak to someone call 0808 800 2222 or visit Parenting and Family Support – Family Lives to access the live chat.
Parent Talk Cymru (Action for Children) offer a free and confidential live chat with a parenting coach available in English and Welsh. Visit Parent Talk Cymru