Dealing with your child’s temper tantrums

Jul 20, 2017 | Read time: 4 mins

Jul 20, 2017 | Read time:

Beating Monday blues, two-and-half year old Megha’s parents had a harrowing time reaching their respective workplace navigating through rush hour traffic. They had left their child with her grandparents and was looking forward to the evening when they would meet their intelligent and mature toddler who was pretty self-sufficient. But every time they returned from office, they observed Megha behaving in a strange manner —- cranky and stubborn, especially with her mother around. She cried till her parents were forced to do what she asked for. She even refused at times to go to play school. Similarly, one-and-half-year-old Rik, a well-mannered boy, turns a super tantrum master when he is out with his parents visiting friends or relatives. He even refuses to have proper meals at any place other than his home.


Patterns of children’s temper tantrums are a myriad mix of emotions and communication gap. A recent study published in the journal Emotion, finds the vocalisation involved in tantrums including screaming, shrieking, wailing etc. follow a rhythm and are almost like a circadian graph showing peaks and valleys. Parents usually feel perturbed by a child’s tantrums, or some completely ignore the cause behind it. Either way, does not help to stop tantrums. Instead, parents must delve into the science behind a shout or a wail and bring about a balanced approach to tackle tantrums.


The University of Minnesota and University of Connecticut recorded vocal evidence of more than 100 temper tantrums. When researchers replayed the audio, they discovered specific tantrum patterns, like yelling and screaming, went hand in hand. Meltdowns be-gan in anger and ended in sadness with cries and whimpers. Spurt of tantrums in urban children have often been equated with rise in modern technology and lack of parent-child ‘connect.’ A recent TIME Magazine article speaks of a study on how digital technology interrupts the bond between a parent and a child, leading to unending episodes of tantrum. As suggested in the article, ‘a technology-free mealtime or playtime might help to ease tantrum tensions caused by modern blurring of outside world with home life.’


How can parents deal with a child throwing tantrums:


  • Parents must try to carve out designated times to put away electronic devices like smartphones, laptops etc and focus all attention on their kids. Reserving certain hours of the day or making technology free locations at home develops a connect between parents and children.
  • Instead of trying to make a child stop screaming, keep silent. This is the quickest way to defuse a tantrum, to wait for the anger to pass.
  • Even if you feel like shouting back and anger shimmers within you, control it. Stay calm or at least pretend to do so. Getting angry will worsen the situation. If you need to speak, keep your voice calm and talk slowly.
  • Parents can intervene to comfort the child once his or her anger subsides and gives way to sadness.
  • Stress, hunger, tiredness and overstimulation irritate children. Parents must try and reduce these factors.
  • Identify tantrum triggers. For example, your child might have tantrums when you are shopping. Either, plan ahead or go shopping when the child is napping.
  • Talk about emotions with your child and help them tide over difficult feelings that are probably frustrating them and leading to tantrums. When your child struggles with a difficult feeling, encourage him to name the feeling and what caused it. If they throw things in anger, ask gently: ‘Did you throw your toy because you were cross that it wasn’t working?’ Such kind words help the child to reset emotions.
  • A child’s social and emotional skills develop between 1-3 years. Children often don’t have words to express big emotions. They want more independence but fear being separated from parents. Such confusion lead to tantrums. It is a natural and normal instinct. Do not overreact. As the child grows, self-regulation comes automatically when they can manage behaviour and reactions.


Tantrums will subside with a little care and control. Till it doesn’t, wait patiently for that next tantrum episode and keep calm.

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