Temper Tantrum Prevention

Temper Tantrum Practical Strategies That Work

This page explains ways to help avoid your child's next outburst.

These tips relate to Frustration tantrums and Want My Own Way tantrums - see why tantrums happen for more about the difference between the two. 

The section on preventing behaviour problems has some good general ideas that also apply to helping your child avoid emotional outbursts.

Below are my tried-and-tested strategies for preventing any temper tantrum before it even starts:

Is There A Temper Tantrum Looming?
Then Give Your Full Attention..

...to your child whenever you can. Obviously you can't do this 24/7, but there are things that you can leave until later: long phone calls, the washing up, paying bills etc if your toddler needs some one-to-one time.

Distract And Divert

Diverting your toddler's attention from the cause of the imminent temper explosion is a brilliant tactic, whichever type of tantrum you've got on your hands. Go to distraction techniques for an exhaustive list of effective tricks to take any young child's mind off a potential meltdown.

Avoiding Frustration Tantrums

Frustration tantrums happen when a toddler's desire outstrips her ability to achieve something.

How can they can be prevented?

Restrict Difficult Activities

Check your toddler is not attempting games or activities that are too complex. Put away certain birthday/Christmas presents for a few months if you feel they are too much for her.

Guide New Activities

Support your toddler when she is tackling an unfamiliar task. For example:

  • Spearing your own food with your fork, then doing this for her
  • Helping her do a new jigsaw

As your toddler gets older, you will judge better when she is ready for new challenges.

Avoiding "Want My Own Way Tantrums"

Want My Own Way' tantrums happen when things are indeed not going your toddler's way.

Here are some helpful tips to avoid tantrums of this type:

Identify Tantrum Triggers

Are there any particular 'triggers' that you can avoid by planning ahead? What about:

  • Supermarkets (alternatives: go on your own in the evening; Internet shopping)
  • Sugar can overstimulate some youngsters, leading to rash behaviour. Try replacing ice cream with greek yoghurt and fruit and see what happens!

Spend some time observing those things that lead to outbursts - you might be surprised at how easy it is to avoid tantrums in this way.

Offer A Substitute

Are these situations familiar:

  • You've played at the park and now you need to get home. Alicia says NO!
  • Alex has had 2 biscuits and now you put them away. He says 'More biscuit!'

Good substitutes to prevent temper tantrums are things like:

  • A cracker or piece of fruit instead of sweets/biscuits etc
  • Playing a special game when you get home if you have to leave the park etc
  • An ice cube in your child's water/juice instead of a fizzy sugary drink

Substitutions are not only an effective way to avoid tantrums (after all, they work on us adults!) - they teach children to compromise, which is a valuable social skill.

Pick Your Battles:
Emergency Bribery??

Avoid creating conflict where there is no need for it.

For example, your toddler is very engrossed in his toy garage. You suddenly remember a letter you need to post today - it's absolutely essential that it goes a.s.a.p.

You can try to force him to leave his play - or recognise the need to sell the idea. After all, it is not his fault that you are suddenly in a rush to post your letter. A bit of emergency bribery is preferable to a tantrum in this situation.

What Next?

Any temper tantrum prevention kit has its limits. There will always be times when tantrums are unavoidable - they are a natural part of growing up. Go to dealing with tantrums for some coping strategies that work with either type of outburst. 

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