Deal with your child’s temper tantrums effectively

Little one liable to meltdowns? How to help them through it without losing your cool
  • 15 Oct - 21 Oct, 2022
  • Mag The Weekly

We've all been there - wincing with embarrassment or bubbling up with annoyance as our little one throws an epic tantrum in publicÊfor no apparent reason.

Maybe it's because you refused to buy them an ice cream, or maybe it's because you made the unforgivable mistake of giving them the blue sippy cup instead of the orange one. To us adults, these little fits of pique and their often-violent accompaniments – kicking, screaming, perhaps throwing said sippy cup at your head - can seem nonsensical, and highly frustrating. But there is a complex psychological process at play whenever a toddler starts resorting to screaming, crying or throwing things. When we have big emotions, the part of our brain that is responsible for attention, thinking, reasoning and judgment (our prefrontal cortex) shuts down and is not available. Here we list down a few steps that can help in defusing a child’s meltdown.


Rather than responding emotionally in turn yourself, experts recommend remaining calm and following some of these gentle steps to dealing with a mounting temper tantrum:

Ensure they are safe

Child safety supersedes everything. If your toddler is putting themselves or others at risk, take them out of the situation, using gentle force if need be. Children need boundaries and limits, but - contrary to popular belief - they don't have to be set harshly.

Check in with yourself

Assuming your child is safe, check in with your own feelings first. If you're feeling frustrated, then you might want to ask someone else to step in. If that's not an option, then a few deep breaths can help you burn off some of the cortisol coursing through your own body.

Look at it from their point of view

The next step would be to try to understand your child's perspective. Are they feeling confused, scared, or angry - and why? Or perhaps they are hungry, thirsty, tired or getting sick? All of these things can help us to understand our child's behaviour.

Offer reassurance, but be realistic

Offer gentle touch, eye contact, be close by, but do not expect your child to stop the tantrum right away. He may need a lot more time to clear the hard feelings before being able to think again. Provide kind reassurances to create a safe place in which, if he needs to, he can fall apart, and then put himself back again.

Don't try to stop it

We have been trained to think that our role here is to try to stop the tantrum. So we try to talk our child out of it. But the more we talk, the less we really listen, and the more difficult it is for our child to complete his healing process.

Validate their feelings

Reflecting a child's feelings back and labelling them can ensure a child feels heard and lessen frustration. Every minute or so we can drop an empathic 'I am sorry it is so hard', or 'I am here to care for you'.

Don't be afraid of their emotions

When we allow children to get rid of their difficult feelings through crying, they come back to their loving, better selves without any 'disciplining’. "It makes parenting very difficult if we just want our 'no' to be respected, but we don't want to hear any of the upset that follows. In doing so we demand our children carry their bag of emotions around without ever giving them an opportunity to relieve the tension. So saying our "no" and allowing them their feelings will make life much easier for both of us.