Temper tantrums happen as your toddler develops more autonomy, and reaches out towards greater independence. Because he still lacks the emotional, verbal and mental skills at this stage in his development, he needs you to support him with clear, firm, consistent boundaries to help him learn to control his out of control emotions. He needs you to teach him how to be authentic with his angry feelings by observing you being authentic with yours.


Prevention is always the first answer in regard to toddler behavior. Watch out for your child’s signs of tiredness, hunger and thirst. Keep to a regular routine for mealtimes and bedtimes. Be warm and affectionate and ensure your child feels as safe and secure as possible. All these actions are part of prevention.

Because a toddler's angry outburst is often so sudden, we all know, as parents, that there are times when we have been less than acceptable in our responses, especially when we are caught off guard. Tiredness, ill health and exasperation all bring out the worst in us.

Your childhood anger

Take a moment to think back into your own childhood. Try to remember a time when you were little and feeling confused, afraid, tired, cantankerous and quite out of sorts.

Do you remember having tantrums? Loosing your temper? Displaying your anger?

How was it dealt with in your family?

What did your parents do when you were really angry?

Were you allowed to be angry and let them know it?

Try to feel your feelings in regard to these questions. Any answers you can come up with will help you to understand your responses to your own child’s anger.

Do you find your reactions to your toddler’s tantrums disturbing?

Is it because you are embarrassed and ashamed, or do you fear that they are out of your control?

Toddler Behavior - Temper Tantrums

If you watch your toddler really expressing his anger, you can see it is in a totally all out physical way. The movements used help him to release emotion from every part of his body.

His legs flail, his arms pump, he yells, grimaces, hits out and he tries to punch everything around him. If he is left to follow the course of the tantrum, he is usually physically subdued by the sheer amount of pent up emotion which has been released and he is calm again.

However, most young children never get this far in a tantrum. Parents by and large go to some sort of measure to ensure that their toddler is restrained, prevented, held, distracted or punished for letting go of his angry feelings.

This is because we were all generally treated in this way when we were young and we have been conditioned to feel ashamed or fearful of anger and of angry outbursts.

Support and Reassurance

A toddler needs to learn how to control these powerful emotions and he needs you to help him and show him how.

He needs to have a supporting and calming presence when he explodes with rage so that he doesn’t grow up to feel ashamed of his anger, his emotions and himself.

As you reassure him, soothe him and help him to calm, his emotional memory stores this up.

It is this memory of being reassured and comforted that helps him to learn how to control his distressing angry outbursts.

Think back again to your own childhood anger. What is it that you would have needed most when you were small and feeling out of control? Nine times out of ten the answer is comfort.


What sort of comfort are we referring to here?

Exactly the sort that is needed at that moment – concern, regard, support, attention, care, love, calm, soothing comfort.

Most of the time when your toddler is having a tantrum his emotions are completely out of control and he is helpless. He needs you to be in control of your emotions, not matching his out of control state.

Temper Tantrums as Manipulation

However tantrums can also be acts of manipulation too and in this regard they reflect back to the parents their own inability to be consistent. If your child knows that when you say no you often don’t mean it, then they will manipulate in the way they know how – by throwing a great, noisy tantrum.

Be consistent – this makes you less able to be manipulated.

The Golden Rule

It seems to me that the best rule of thumb to follow when we are unsure about any of our reactions and responses as parents is to follow the golden rule.

* “Do to others as you would have them do to you”.

* Respond as you would like to be responded to.

Because children are people too, I believe that children have the right to be treated as I like to be treated.

* I do not like to be yelled at, pushed, slapped, hit, or physically mistreated in any way.

* I do not like being ignored, bullied, shamed, threatened, smacked, ridiculed or laughed at.

Therefore I believe it is a child’s right to expect the same behavior from me.

It is hard work to be keeping company with an exuberant, aggressive, angry toddler, but be assured that as you respond to them with supportive, calm, consistent, positive attention they will learn to control their out of control emotions.

Maintain authentic expression of your own emotions instead of masking them, pretending, stifling, acting and repressing them.

Communicate with your toddler by expressing your own emotions clearly and genuinely in safe and effective ways.

Author's Bio: 

Helen Williams is a parent educator and family counselor. As editor of Consistent Parenting, she writes a web site which reveals the profound difference clear, firm and consistent parenting will bring to your family. Visit her site at consistent-parenting-advice.com.