Topic Overview

Temper tantrums aren’t intentional or planned. They
are a normal response to anger and other strong emotions. It’s best to prevent tantrums if you can. But if you can’t, sometimes the best way to deal with a temper tantrum is to ignore the tantrum or distract your child.

Prevent temper tantrums

You may be able to help prevent or reduce
how often temper tantrums happen by:

  • Establishing and keeping a regular schedule that
    includes enough hours of sleep and times set aside for eating meals. Having a
    predictable routine can help your child to feel in control and stay
  • Knowing what to expect from your child based on his or her
    age and abilities. Parents who expect too much often correct their child more
    than they need to or ask the child to do things that he or she isn’t able to
    do. This increases the child’s frustration.
  • Allowing your child to
    make simple choices, such as which vegetable to eat or which shirt to wear.
    Being able to make choices reduces frustration and helps children develop
  • Setting fair, consistent, and firm limits on the
    child’s behavior. Say “no” when you mean “no.” When you say “no,” don’t change
    your mind and give in to the child’s wishes. This confuses children or teaches
    them that “no” sometimes means “yes.”
  • Removing breakable or valuable
    possessions from your child’s reach. This helps decrease the number of times
    you need to say “no” to your child.
  • Praising and thanking your child
    when he or she behaves appropriately and does things that you would expect from
    a child that age.
  • When your child is calm, listening to your child’s concerns and reasons for
    having a different opinion or idea than you do.

Ignore temper tantrums

Sometimes ignoring a
temper tantrum works best. Ways to ignore your child
during a tantrum include:

  • Walking away from the child. But for some children this
    doesn’t work. They may feel more out of control, making the temper tantrum
  • Standing about
    5 ft (1.5 m) away from the
    child and continuing to do what you were doing. You can observe without
    focusing all of your attention on your child.
  • Not talking to the
    child, if possible. If you do talk to your child, talk in a neutral tone of

Distract your child

You may be able to shorten a
tantrum by:

  • Distracting your child or redirecting his or her
    attention when you notice that your child is becoming frustrated. Young
    children often aren’t aware of their mounting
  • Removing your child from situations that are likely to
    trigger a temper tantrum. Young children often aren’t aware that certain
    situations are too much for them to handle. The excitement and activity of
    certain situations, such as a large family dinner or the lights and noise of a
    carnival, may trigger a temper tantrum.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Susan C. Kim, MD – Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer Louis Pellegrino, MD – Developmental Pediatrics

Current as ofMay 4, 2017