Surviving Toddler Temper Trantrums

So your previously delicious angel has turned into a screaming, biting, head banging, little trouble maker. Here is the good and the bad news. As children become more secure with their attachment to their parents they begin exploring their environment wanting independence. The good news is that as your child pushes him/herself to do more difficult tasks he/she will develop a strong self-esteem as well as learn to dress oneself, put on shoes, brush teeth, spread the butter on toast, etc.  The bad news is that it can be frustrating to be a little guy/girl who wants badly to be able to make choices and do for himself but can’t always do so.

Toddlerhood, while difficult for children, can be brutal for the accompanying adult. However, there are ways to not only get through this time, but to grow as parents and children. Here are some tips that you can begin as soon as the first tantrum rears its ugly head:

  • Manage your schedule so that you leave extra time for everything. Rushing just doesn’t work for toddlers.
  • Plan less and accomplish more. The more you put on your plate and the plate of your toddler, the more opportunities there are for your plans to be thwarted by tantrums.
  • Before you say no to your toddler who asks to do something for himself, think first if you can let him try. It is better to let your toddler try to put his shoes on and fail then it is to tell him he can’t do it. If you aren’t hovering and waiting to jump in there he will probably eventually ask you for help.
  • This might sound like a cliché, but choices are very powerful. Whenever you can give your child a choice it is best because it makes him feel like he has some control over his environment.
  • No matter how carefully you tread, you cannot avoid all tantrums. Sometimes little people are irrational. The best way to deal with an irrational, screaming child is to ignore him. No matter what, don’t give in. Sometimes the tantrum has to run its course with the child not getting his way to realize that a tantrum is not an appropriate way to get what he wants. If you give in to just end the screaming (which I know is insanely tempting), it only reinforces to the child that this act works.
  • Remember that this is a phase. Your child isn’t trying to harass you or make your life more difficult. He is just trying to grow up.

–Catherine Pearlman, LMSW makes home visits to help parents work through typical parenting challenges such as feeding and sleep issues, transitions, sibling rivalry, and discipline problems. Her philosophy is that everyone could use a little coaching sometimes to help improve their family life. She received her Master in Social Work degree from New York University. She is currently an adjunct professor at Yeshiva University where she is also a Doctoral Candidate.  She is also the mother of a three year old and a six year old.
You can contact Catherine for a consultation by e-mail at