Temper tantrums

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 them. Remove your child from the scene if they:

  • hit or kick others
  • throw things
  • have a tantrum in a public place

Temper tantrums can increase if you and your partner give in to your child or reward them 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 them choices whenever possible. If you must say "no" when it is important, be ready to deal with a tantrum.

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

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

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 themself 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 they are "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, Guide for the Care of Children: Ages Birth to 5, sixth edition, ped-ah-91554
First Published: 02/01/2010
Last Reviewed: 11/16/2022