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Tantrums – Natural But Undesirable Behaviour

There are all sorts of tantrums! Some are long, some are short. Some loud and some violent.

  1. There’s the Traditional Tantrum: Throwing themselves on the floor whilst screaming, and thrashing arms and legs around wildly.

  2. There's the Toddler Tantrum: Chasing mum or dad around the room with arms raised while wailing inconsolably until somebody picks them up.

  3. The Toy Shop Tantrum: (Not only to be performed in a toy shop) where there is LOUD screaming and shouting until the small person gets exactly what they want or something else instead (AKA distraction)!

  4. The Car Seat/Pushchair Tantrum: Lots of thrusting, writhing and grunting in an attempt to twist out of the restraints and escape/be released. This can also involve becoming completely rigid!

  5. And of course the Bedtime Tantrum: Lying down or standing in the cot or at the stair-gate and SCREAMING as if there really is a monster under the bed that is coming to get you!

And there are so many more…


But they all have a pretty similar meaning – “I want it! I want it my way! And I’m going to scream until you do it!!!” With an underlying meaning - "I need you to give me some attention because something is making me feel unsafe and I know you will keep me safe!"


When the first “BIG One” erupts, it can take you totally by surprise, as your child, who is usually so happy and sweet, turns into a frenzied monster, displaying an array of demonic behaviour that you never thought possible.


The thing is, tantrums are totally natural, just like crying when we get upset and jumping around when we get excited. As your child grows up they will learn to control how they express their emotions based on the responses of those around them. But if you do everything you can to stop the tantrums before they really kick off, your child will learn that by behaving in that particularly unpleasant way, they get loads of attention.


However, if you learn to understand why your child is having a tantrum, and how to respond correctly when they do, they will stop having them.

  1. Understand that your child is having a tantrum to get your attention.

  2. They are trying to get your attention because they have an emotional need. DO NOT DISTRACT THEM as this dismisses their emotions, and will create an unhealthy response to rising emotions.

  3. They may have learnt that a tantrum gets them something that they may not get if they don't have a tantrum. You need to work out what you feel they are and aren't allowed. Create boundaries. Be consistent with them! Don't be afraid to say "no" and stick to it without offering an alternative.

  4. When a tantrum starts, focus on their emotions, not what the trigger of the tantrum was.

  5. Tell them how you think they are feeling.

  6. Give them time and space to feel cross and sad.

  7. Be loving and supportive as they let their feelings out.

  8. Don't go back over what happened because this takes the focus to their behaviour and away from their emotions. The emotions cause the behaviour.

  9. If you child lashes out during a tantrum, you can tell them that you "won't let them hurt you". You will then need to move away so that they can't.

  10. Later on, you can talk to them about a better way to let you know that they are feeling cross, and you can talk about how it hurts you when they hit you.

The "tantrum phase" will be shorter if you learn to respond in the right way. If you regularly give into tantrums or use distraction, the tantrums will become learnt behaviour and the "phase" could go on right through to adulthood.


Love, support, acknowledgement of emotions and an understanding that feeling sad and cross is safe and normal (we will all experience these feelings throughout our lives because we are HUMANS) will help you and your little one overcome these huge emotional explosions.


For more information and help with your little one's behaviour, please call Dee Booth 07977 462252.


I would like to say a big “thank you” to the parents of the beautiful tantrums featured above.


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