Temper Tantrums – Ask Dr. Day Care

I have three foster children and the oldest one often has temper tantrums. How can I deal with these in a way that is best for the child but also allows me to keep my sanity? – Tired in Cranston, RI



Dear Tired,

Temper tantrums could begin before a year old peaking at different ages and stages of development. Usually children will have a temper tantrum due to frustration and feeling not in control. Many parents are embarrassed by their child’s behavior, which is a very normal feeling. Temper tantrums could be avoided if parents are educated to notice the signs of temper tantrum and react before the tantrum escalates.

Professionally, I have witnessed many temper tantrums by children of all ages, and the best suggestion I have to offer is notice your child’s limits and personality. Parents know their child the best and know when they are beginning to change their attitude. Most parents can almost calculate a tantrum through their child’s attitude, breathing, and facial expressions.

A child’s feelings of frustration can be triggered by being tired, wanting an item in the store, clothing, bedtime, language development, and simply trying to get their own way.  When your child is tired, avoid shopping trips as these often could set a child up for a temper tantrum episode.

Try to avoid tantrums by giving your child a choice.  Make sure you are ok with either option that you present! This helps you give acceptable limits and allows your child to feel a sense of control.

For example, when you see a tantrum about to blossom in a supermarket, ask your child in a calm reassuring voice, “Would you like to stay in the store or leave now?” If there is no response from your child and the tantrum continues to escalate, set boundaries immediately and let your child know you will be leaving the store if they do not stop the tantrum. Following through on your word is a key important factor to setting boundaries with your child. Another technique is to try distracting your child by getting them involved in another subject. In an excited voice, point out the lobsters swimming in a tank and engage your child in conversation if he/she is willing and able.

However if your child is in a full blown tantrum, make sure your child is safe and does not hurt themselves, people, or you.

Some articles have been written and state to let the child be until the tantrum is finished. I personally am not a fan of this technique.

One of my suggestions while your child is in the process of a tantrum is approach your child and gently touch a part of their body such as their shoulder, foot, arm or rub their head gently. In a calm, caring voice say “I know you are upset and frustrated, but I am here for you when you need me. When you’re ready and stop crying and screaming, I will listen to your voice and feelings since I can see you’re frustrated & angry.”

I feel this technique lets your child know they are understood and in time, most tantrums will subside and return less and less.

Dr. Day Care

“Dr. Day Care” is Mary Ann Shallcross Smith, Ed.D., Founder & President of Child Care Consultants & Facilities Management, Dr. Day Care Learning Center, Kids Klub, and Therapeutic Child Care Services. We educate infant, toddler, preschool, kindergarten, and school-age/camp children.

“Dr. Day Care” can be reached anytime by calling 401-723-2277 x 222 or by e-mail at drdaycare@drdaycare.com. For additional Parent Resources, such as informational videos, visit our website at: www.drdaycare.com.  Mary Ann also wrote a children’s book: Edgar Graduates, learn more at www.drdaycare.com/books