Help for Child Tantrums

Child tantrums are a normal part of development. But, they can be stressful for the whole family. While some kids have few tantrums, other kids may struggle with tantrums throughout the day. In addition, outbursts are caused by a variety of situations and experiences. Some include a child not getting what she wants, trouble with communicating her needs and wants and/or feeling like she is not being treated fairly.

Over time, children learn emotion regulation through modeling and practicing with parents, teachers and peer interactions. And Emotion regulation is about learning to regulate the thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations in response to situations and people. But, often an inability to regulate emotions is due to another overarching concern related to:

The majority of child tantrums, however, can be helped with some guidance, observation of what’s causing the outbursts and positive reinforcement. Since children tend to learn, generally involuntarily, that tantrums can get them what they want, they need to learn how to use other behaviors to meet their needs and wants. Suggestions for the home include:

  1. Anticipate what causes a tantrum. If getting dressed causes an outburst, then allow your child to pick out their clothes the day before, talk about the routine of getting dressed the night before, remind them that this is a way for them to start their day fresh and try changing clothes in a different part of the house.
  2. If the tantrum occurs in a safe place and isn’t dangerous, try ignoring the behavior. Completely withdraw any sort of attention, including looking at your child.
  3. Remember not to talk to kids when they are not available. They won’t be able to understand or hear you if they are having a meltdown.
  4. Try modeling taking a break when you’re upset. Even grown ups need to take a breather.
  5. Give your child clear and consistent expectations. So if your child is in line at the store, instead of saying, “You need to behave,” say, “You need to stand next to me, use a quiet voice and nice words to talk, and keep your hands on your toy.”
  6. Catch your child in the act of positive behaviors. It’s natural to focus on the negative, but if you can focus on the small efforts your child makes toward progress, you’ll be giving them attention at times that will encourage positive behaviors.

If you would like extra guidance or suggestions, contact us to speak with our child behavioral consultant specializing in child development and tantrum behaviors. We serve families in San Diego North County, including Carlsbad, Encinitas, Rancho Santa Fe, Escondido and surrounding cities.

About Susan Gehrig, PhD

Susan Gehrig, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and founder of Paradox Psychological Services located in Carlsbad. She has a passion for supporting the wellbeing of children and teens. Her expertise is in child mindfulness and self-compassion, cognitive behavioral therapy, and child development. Dr. Gehrig provides psychoeducational testing and therapy services to help build a plan for success. Paradox provides services for families of San Diego North County and greater areas.

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