Can a Temper Tantrum Be Prevented?

Reviewed on 6/23/2021
temper tantrum prevention
While it may not be possible to stop a temper tantrum once it’s already started, you may be able to prevent them

Sleepless nights and tiring days are just some of the challenges your little one brings into your life. Add temper tantrums to the mix, and it can be exhausting as a parent. 

Whether it’s at a family event, supermarket, or hotel lobby, dealing with a temper tantrum can feel like a losing battle, making you feel embarrassed, frustrated, and helpless all at the same time. So what can you do to handle these bursts of anger?

What is a temper tantrum?

Temper tantrums generally begin when a child is about 1 year old and often continue until age 2 or 3. Toddlers use temper tantrums as a way to express strong emotions before learning how to handle them in more productive or socially acceptable ways. 

During a temper tantrum, your child may appear completely out of control, screaming, stomping their feet, and overall acting out in disruptive ways. While they’re no fun to deal with, they are a natural part of your child’s development.

As young children start to learn new things and become more independent, they may want to do a lot more than they emotionally or physically handle. This can be frustrating for them, and they may vent this emotion in a sudden outburst of anger.

What triggers temper tantrums?

Since it’s near impossible to stop a temper tantrum once it’s already stopped, it’s better to try to prevent them from happening. This starts with understanding what the potential triggers are:

  • Being tired or hungry
  • Having difficulty in doing or completing a task
  • Wanting to be on their own
  • Being upset or worried
  • Lack of sleep
  • Being in transition (such as from daycare to home)
  • When something is taken away
  • Wanting attention
  • Feeling unwell
  • Inability to understand what parents want them to do

How to prevent temper tantrums

While you may not be able to always predict when a tantrum is going to happen, you may be able to prevent them by making sure to avoid the triggers listed above:

  • Make sure your child eats well and gets sufficient sleep. Children are more likely to have temper tantrums when they are hungry, sleepy, or tired.
  • Shower your child with attention and affection. Praise them when they do something good or behave well. Spend enough quality time with them throughout the day.
  • Give them the liberty to make some choices. Being in control makes a child happy. Even making small decisions for themselves can have a calming effect, such as choosing which fruit to eat or what color pajamas to wear. Make sure you give them good choices, however. For example, don’t ask them “Do you want to take a bath or not?” and instead ask “Do you want to take a bath first or brush your teeth first?”
  • Distract them with something fun. If you find your child getting frustrated because of an activity or boredom, distract them with something they like to do. Children have short attention spans and distractions may help nip negative emotions in the bud. 
  • Explain things to them patiently and calmly. If there is an expected change in your child’s routine, such as a new school or activity, sit with them and explain to them what is going to happen and how they can handle it.
  • Don’t make unreasonably rigid rules. You may want your little one to do something they don’t want to do. If their choice is not bad for them, let it go. Remember, maintaining peace is better than being proven right.
  • Keep reasonable expectations. Know your child’s limits. If they appear hungry or tired, you may have to postpone that play date or outing for another time.

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References
American Academy of Family Physicians. Managing and Preventing Temper Tantrums. https://familydoctor.org/managing-and-preventing-temper-tantrums/

Kids Health. Temper Tantrums. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/tantrums.html

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