Temper tantrums are a child’s way to telling the surrounding people that they are overwhelmed
and need some help managing some REALLY.BIG.FEELINGS.RIGHT.NOW. From the child’s
perspective, it is a highly efficient way to get needs met because it is typically sudden, loud and
Imagine being a small person (child) and being quite fed up that the big people (adults) always
get to make the rules. How unfair that feels! From the child’s perspective, the rules or a “no,
you can’t do that (right now) can really make them angry (especially if the child is tired or
So what is a parent to do?
Put yourself in your child’s shoes. What if another adult took something away from you and your (very understandable) response was to feel angry. What if that person then told you “Stop feeling angry!” That’s not very helpful, is it?
It’s not personal. It is automatic and biologic and temporary. We need to help them manage
until the energy just dies down naturally. Sometimes, being nearby and staying physically
present without words is the most helpful thing. You might say, “I see you are having some
really big feelings right now. That’s ok. I am going to stay right here with you are feeling better.”
Or, perhaps your child would prefer a silent touch on their back, head or arm. Staying calm
yourself, breathing deeply and fully can “pace” your child and help things wind down sooner.
Older children may benefit from having a brief re-cap of the situation AFTER all of the energy is
dissipated and the tears are dried. As you repeatedly accompany your child through tantrums in
childhood, you are teaching them to self soothe in times of stress. That is a gift that you will
give them for a lifetime.