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What is usually referred to as ‘Temper Tantrums’ are events that all parents will probably experience from time to time and can occur from the smallest of reasons.

During the toddler stage, children will start to see the world from their own point of view. Each day they are developing both physically and mentally, however, they’re ability to understand, reason and or explain what they’re feeling is still developing.

Some common causes and challenging behaviour that can be seen are:

  • Tiredness
  • Hunger
  • Changes to familiar routine or not having a consistent daily routine.
  • Worry/Anxiety
  • Not able to understand what is happening
  • Feeling unwell

Reasoning with a child during these events can cause more upset.

Toddlers and children are still learning about the world around them, which includes testing some rules and boundaries that are there to keep them safe. Imagine having fun exploring the world around you when suddenly, an adult intervenes and puts a limit to this exploring.

Prevent, defuse and manage these events effectively.

  • Early warning signs – intervene and divert early. When does behaviour become challenging? What situations make them upset? What helps them feel calm and relaxed?
  • Lots of praise for positive behaviours that you would like to see more of.
  • Avoid giving attention to the less positive behaviour. If your child is not hurting anyone and are not harming themselves, there is no need to engage with negative behaviour.
  • Getting down to the toddler/child’s level to firstly have direct eye contact, and then use a calm voice/tone.
  • Use short sentences that are clear and to the point.
  • Do not let yourself be drawn into an argument with your toddler/child, simply repeat the same sentence again calmly and firmly.
  • Prepare your toddler/child for the change in routine, or if you know you are going somewhere that may be a bit stressful. Talk through what will happen. Explain your expectations and the reward – such as reading their favourite story. A reward chart could also be used alongside this approach for older children with greater understanding.
  • Depending on their age, you can suggest some strategies for coping with difficult feelings, that don’t involve hurting others. These could be taking deep breaths or clenching and unclenching fists.
  • Parent to work together as a team – inconsistency in approaches confuse children about what the rules are, therefore setting boundaries will be difficult.

If your child is shouting, kicking, lying on the floor etc…..

  • Take a deep breath.
  • Remove any obstacles that are around them that could harm them
  • Place yourself nearby and wait for them to show signs of calming.
  • Once you see they are calming down ask them if they would like a cuddle or if they’d like to play.
  • Repeat these steps until the child calms themselves.
  • Depending on age and the child’s communication skills, you could discuss their feelings once they’re calm. You could once again explain your reason as to why a rule or boundary was put in place by you.

These tips can be used with all children, however some children that might have developmental delay, or heightened sensory awareness might show other challenging behaviour traits.

Get to know your child, their likes and dislikes and which environments could potentially cause distress or make them anxious.

All toddlers are different and will behave in different ways. If you need further support with your child’s challenging behaviour or want to have a further understanding of children’s behaviours, please see the useful links below:

This page was last reviewed on 13-12-2023

This page will be next reviewed on 13-12-2026