Terrible Twos: How to Manage a Toddler’s Temper Tantrums

Screaming, crying, kicking, and biting…

That’s exactly what my 2-year old does. How true when people coined the term “terrible two’s!"

Whenever I go against K’s will, he will throw tantrums like crazy.

For example, he wants to eat something but being turned down. Or he wants to stay longer in the bathroom but being cut short.

I will be the best person to ask if you want to know the true meaning of terrible two’s.

When he has temper tantrums, nothing can stop him. Not even when his request is fulfilled.

This has become worse after our trip recently.

Before things get out of hand, I’d better look out for some solutions.

First off, what are temper tantrums?

According to an article on WebMD:

A temper tantrum is an unplanned, unintentional expression of anger, often with physical and verbal outbursts; it is not an act to get attention, as is commonly thought. During a temper tantrum, children typically cry, yell, and flail their arms and legs. Temper tantrums usually last 30 seconds to 2 minutes and are most intense at the onset.

Geez, I can’t believe how perfectly K matches the explanation! With the exception that his tantrums last more than 2 minutes.

Now, what causes temper tantrums?

WebMD says: A tantrum is a normal and expected response when something interferes with a young child’s attempt to gain independence or to master a skill. For example, a temper tantrum may be triggered when a child becomes frustrated while trying to button a shirt or is told it is time for bed when he or she wants to stay up longer.

Guess what it’s part of a parent’s responsibility to handle a toddler’s temper tantrums because tantrums are normal!

This is the best part: How do parents deal with temper tantrums?

The article continues: Ignoring the tantrum behavior and helping a young child learn how to handle and express anger and frustration are usually effective ways to deal with the behavior. Also, paying attention to what triggers tantrums can help you act before a child’s emotions escalate beyond the point where he or she can control them.

Any attempts to stop a tantrum usually make it worse. When you stop responding to your child’s temper tantrums, the behavior may get worse for a few days before it stops. Ignoring some temper tantrums (such as when a child has one because he or she does not want to go to bed, or is kicking, biting, and pinching) may not be possible.

The article offers more ways of handling a child’s tantrums:

  • Praise for calming down. After a tantrum, comfort your child without giving into her or his demands. Tell your child that he or she was out of control and needed time to calm down. Never make fun of or punish a child who has had a temper tantrum. Don’t use words like "bad girl" or "bad boy" to describe your child during a temper tantrum.
  • Acknowledge the feeling. Once your child is calm, acknowledge his or her feelings of frustration and anger. You might say, "I know that you were frustrated because you could not tie your shoes."
  • Teach other ways to handle anger and frustration. Teaching a child different ways to deal with negative emotions may reduce the number of temper tantrums a child has or prevent temper tantrums from getting worse. Offer simple suggestions to help a child learn self-control. For example, encourage your child to use words to express feelings or establish a safe, comfortable, place in the home where your child can go to calm down. Notice and praise good behavior.
  • Encourage taking a break from a frustrating activity or redirect the child to a task he or she has already mastered.
  • Be a good role model. Children often learn by watching their parents. Set a good example by handling your own frustration calmly.

What to do and what not to do during a tantrum?

During a tantrum, you can help your child by:

  • Remaining calm.
  • Staying where the child can see you, especially if the child is very young.
  • Sending the child to his or her room until he or she is calm, if the child is old enough to understand why this is being done.
  • Removing any dangerous furniture or objects within the child’s reach. If there are too many objects that could hurt the child, you may need to move the child to a safe place. Sometimes, you may need to physically hold a younger child to prevent injury.
  • Being firm and consistent about what you expect. Do not give in to the child’s demands.
  • Not trying to reason with the child during the tantrum. Talk calmly to the child if this works for him or her. However, don’t lecture, threaten, or argue with the child.
  • Distracting your child from his or her frustration or take your child away from a situation that is likely to trigger a tantrum. For example, if your child doesn’t like to go to bed, about 20 minutes before bedtime talk about a fun activity that is going to occur the next day. Reduce the need to say "no" to your child by childproofing your home. Fewer rules need to be enforced if unsafe or breakable items are kept out of a child’s reach or sight.

Most are great advice. However, I don’t agree with time-outs by sending the child to his room.

I have tried ignoring the tantrums, being firm about what I expect from my son, but he still not getting it.

Perhaps, I have to keep trying until he learns how to handle his frustration in a better way.

If you are dead serious in restoring peace in your family, I highly recommend this: The Happy Child Guide. It is a step-by-step guide on how to turn misbehavior into great behavior – without defiance, stress and unhealthy discipline.

Update (30 January 2008): Just when I talked about my "hot-tempered" son yesterday, he bit his sister last night during a fight over a chair.