Temper Tantrums Aren’t Just for Two Year Olds Anymore

We understand that dealing with temper tantrums in children (teens, adults…) can be a challenging and frustrating experience. 😅 Temper tantrums are a natural part of development and maturation. It is the process of learning how to communicate needs and wants and accepting “no.” 🚸 Most children work through them before they come to school.

However, we are seeing an increase in the number of children and teens coming to school who continue to have temper tantrums and significant dysregulation when they don’t get their way, hear the word “no,” don’t want to do something, or are faced with something hard. 😬 As children experience healthy limits and boundaries, they develop socially appropriate ways to get their needs and wants met, learn to handle “no” and follow directions even if they don’t want to. 🌱 Essentially, they mature into responsible, happy, self-confident, and productive citizens who care about themselves and others. Wouldn’t that be nice? 😇

If you are seeing an increase in temper tantrums, continue reading to learn what to do. Hint: it isn’t as hard as you think; all you need is a backbone, courage, faith in the child, a chill vibe, and maybe earplugs. 😉

The Temper Tantrum Cycle:

  • Trigger: Tantrums often have a specific trigger, such as frustration, hunger, tiredness, hearing “no,” a desire for attention, or wanting a particular item.
  • Buildup: When the child doesn’t get their way, their emotions build up. Some children may escalate their behavior, hoping to change the adult’s expectations and get what they want.
  • Peak: The peak is when the child exhibits the most intense and challenging behaviors. The tantrum progresses from whining to crying, yelling, arguing, swearing, and potentially more challenging behaviors (i.e., aggression, threats, eloping, stripping down, spitting, etc.). Giving in to the tantrum demands can escalate future incidents.
  • Resolution: After the peak, the child’s emotions gradually subside and calm down. In this stage, the child is happier, generally more polite, and ready to follow expectations. This process leads to emotional maturity. 

Tips for Managing the Temper Tantrum Cycle:

  • Stay Calm: Adults need to remain calm and non-emotional during a tantrum. Remember, this is not your problem. You may have to get the child/teen to a safe place, but you don’t have to join them in the emotional upset, and it is better for the child if you don’t. 
  • Provide Space/Time Out: Get the child to a quiet place with decreased attention from peers and adults. Allow them space until they go through the peak and are calm and ready to follow directions. Limit adult interactions during this time.
  • Follow Through: Once the child is calm, follow the original expectation. Consistency helps reduce the intensity and duration of future tantrums.
  • Identify Triggers: Pay attention to what triggers the child’s or teen’s tantrums. Understanding the triggers enables you to teach them and role-play the skills needed to manage similar scenarios in the future or ensure basic needs are met (i.e., food, sleep, etc.).
  • Set Clear Expectations: Communicate expectations to your child and consistently follow through with the discipline procedures. 
  • Choices: If using choices, provide age-appropriate and situational-appropriate options beforehand, not during or after a tantrum has started. Giving alternatives after a tantrum has started may reinforce the use of tantrums.
  • Use Encouragement: Acknowledge positive behavior and healthy coping skills. 
  • Teach Emotional Regulation: Help your child understand and manage their emotions. Use simple language to discuss feelings and provide coping strategies like deep breathing.

Remember, temper tantrums are a phase most children and some teenagers go through. By staying consistent, teaching emotional regulation, and fostering a nurturing relationship, you can help the child develop the necessary skills to navigate and eventually outgrow the tantrum cycle.

To learn more, watch our podcasts. Take a live course  or an on demand course or purchase our book “Healing Discipline: Bringing Hope to Shattered Lives, A Guide for Educators.” We are also happy to discuss any questions or concerns you might have via phone or email.  You can contact us at 1-888-311-1883 or email us at info@healingchildren.com.

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