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26th Dec 2019

Everything you need to know about temper tantrums (including how to diffuse them)

If toddlers came with a manual...

Have you got a toddler? Congratulations. They are AWESOME.

The way the talk. The way they smell. The leg-hugs. Seriously; I want to press pause and keep my toddler a toddler for like 15 more years.

The thing is, they are also rather prone to a little tantrum here and there (and everywhere).

The first public one is always such a game-changer. Suddenly, you are THAT mum that everyone are watching, as you gently try to peel your howling and two-year-old from the Tesco floor, while explaining to him why he can’t have the €79 Thomas the Tank Engine train track today (or ever!), and no, he can’t open the tub of ice cream he just grabbed from the freezer either.

Oh, mamas, I hear ya. Been there, felt that.

But breathe in and breathe out and know that there is light at the end of the tantrum-tunnel. (Just give it a few years!).

The good news is, however, that according to experts, tantrums do have both a pattern and an explanation, meaning there are ways to tackle them that might just work. Here is what you need to know:

1. Tantrums follow a predictable pattern

They may look like pure chaos, but tantrums actually have fairly predictable peaks and denouements. Phase one involves yelling and screaming; phase two throwing objects or oneself on the floor. While the flailing of phase two may seem like an escalation, it’s actually a sign the tantrum’s past its apex and headed downhill, giving way to phase three: crying and whining. Ideally, parents should wait until phase three before intervening to comfort their child – if you can manage to listen to phase one and two, that is!

2. Ignore it, and it will go away

The fastest way to end most tantrums is to not add fuel to the fire, which means you should ignore the outburst. Turn your back if you can, and don’t get angry or emotional – from your child’s perspective, negative attention is better than none.

3. Reasoning is absolutely futile

Ever notice how trying to talk to a ticked-off toddler just makes things worse? Here’s why: Kids in the midst of a meltdown are so mentally taxed, appeals to their sense of logic won’t sink in, and will only push their tirade to greater heights. So don’t bother explaining to little Leo why he has to wear shoes outside. Don’t ask questions, either, which also overload their brain circuits as they scramble to formulate a response.

4. Tantrums come in different forms

There are actually three types of tantrums. “Attention tantrums” are a type where your child is playing quietly but erupts as soon as you’re on the phone. “Tangibles tantrums” erupt when your child desires something he can’t have, like sweets in the shop, and “command avoidance tantrums” occur when your child resists changing what he’s doing, like taking a bath or going to bed.

For the first two types of tantrums, experts agree that ignoring them is best, since your attention is what they’re angling for. For “command avoidance” tantrums, you might need to take more forceful measures, like saying, “I’m going to count to five. By five, you should have your shoes on and be ready to go.” Counting works well because no one can immediately jump into an activity they’re reluctant to do; this gives them time to adjust.

5. Don’t worry if you cave under certain circumstances

As we all know, sometimes the best course for your sanity is to give in – if what your toddler is screaming for is within reason. But you should fold immediately—don’t deny their request, and then give in later, as this teaches them that if they’re sufficiently persistent, they’ll get what they want. This can’t be said enough when it comes to toddlers: Pick. Your. Battles.

How do YOU tackle temper tantrums, parents? Have you any great tips that we – and everyone else who are in possession of a toddler – might want to know about? Send me an e-mail at