Temper tantrums

Temper tantrums are as difficult for children to deal with as they are for those around them.

Almost all children have temper tantrums between the ages of 1 and 3. Tantrums usually stop by age 4.

Children may throw temper tantrums to express their feelings, frustrations, hunger, fatigue, illness, discomfort, developmental limits (such as not being able to walk or run without falling), or to simply test the rules and limits.

The best thing to do is to stay calm and ignore it.

If a temper tantrum is too violent to ignore, take your child into another room and stay with her. Remove your child from the scene if she:

  • hits or kicks others
  • throws things
  • has a tantrum in a public place

Temper tantrums can increase if you and your partner give in to your child or reward her for stopping the tantrum. Any attention, even "negative" attention (such as scolding or arguing) can make the tantrum last longer. You need to be consistent and clear about the rules.

If your child has a tantrum when you say "no," try to give her choices whenever possible. If you must say "no" when it is important, be ready to deal with a tantrum.

When to call your health care provider

Call your health provider for an appointment if your child:

  • cannot clearly express feelings after age 3
  • continues tantrums after age 4
  • hurts herself or others
  • has nightmares often
  • loses toilet training skills
  • has headaches or stomachaches often
  • clings to you or your partner
  • is always in a negative mood or has low self-esteem

Do not tell your child she is "bad." Your child needs your help and understanding.

Most important, do not get upset or angry and never hit or spank your child for having a temper tantrum.

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Guide for the Care of Children: Ages Birth to 5 Years Old, fifth edition. To avoid awkward sentences, instead of referring to your child as "he/she" or "him/her," this guide will alternate between "he" or "she" and "him" or "her."
Reviewed By: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts, including the Pediatric Department of Allina Health Coon Rapids Clinic
First Published: 02/01/2010
Last Reviewed: 01/01/2016


If your child tends to have temper tantrums, you can help her by:

  • helping her put away her toys (Make a game out of it.)
  • showing her what she can do (If she can't run, show her she can walk fast.)
  • focusing her attention on another activity
  • trying to get her to talk about how she's feeling
  • teaching her to act out her anger in an appropriate way (such as drawing or screaming into a pillow)