How do you keep your kids from having a full temper tantum? And why do they happen anyway (By Claire McCarthy, M.D., Harvard Health Publications)? They usually happen because a child:

  • Gets frustrated. Children ages one to three are learning to use language and their bodies. They become frustrated as they struggle to express themselves and when they can’t do something they want to.
  • Gets upset. Disappointment and anger can be very difficult feelings to deal with, especially for a small child.
  • Is asserting his or her independence. This is the age when children begin to say no — sometimes purely for the sake of saying no.


The key to preventing or diffusing tantrums is to understand your child’s tantrum triggers, and understand what it feels like to be little and out of control. Here are some suggestions:

  • Avoid tantrum-provoking situations. Use the candy-free check-out aisle at the supermarket.
  • Toy shop when you can leave your child at home — and definitely don’t take your child to the store or any other possibly challenging place when they are tired or hungry. (Bring snacks whenever you go out if hunger is a trigger for your child).
  • At home, keep things your child wants but can’t have out of sight.


When it comes to tantrums, a little advance planning goes a long way.

  • Spend positive time together. Dedicate some time every day to snuggling and playing with your child. (Reading together is a great way to snuggle!) Even if it doesn’t totally prevent tantrums, it is good for your child — and for your relationship with her.
  • Let your child feel in control. Obviously, you are in charge. But when you can, give your child choices. Instead of saying “Time to get dressed!” say “Do you want to wear the blue shirt or the green one?” Instead of “Time to go to bed!” try “Which book shall we read before bed this one, or that one?” (Limiting the choices to two is generally best.)

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