Your pregnancy and baby guide
Open all pages about Your pregnancy and baby guide
- Secrets to success
- Am I pregnant?
- Early days
- Week by week
- Preparing for the birth
- Work out your due date
- Tests scans and checks
- Your pregnancy (antenatal) care
- Your health and wellbeing
- Existing health problems
- Common pregnancy ailments
- Pregnancy-induced conditions
Labour and birth
- The start of labour
- The birth
- Emotions and worries
- Premature babies
- How to breastfeed
- Breastfeeding problems
- Lifestyle and breastfeeding
- Bottle feeding
- Newborn screening tests
- Newborn essentials
- New parents
- New mums
- Twins and multiples
Babies and toddlers
- Weaning and solid foods
- Baby health and care
- Spotting signs of serious illness
- Reflux in babies
- How to take a baby's temperature
- Reducing the risk of SIDS
- Treating a high temperature
- Sleep problems in children
- Coughs, colds and ear infections
- Diarrhoea and vomiting
- Infectious illnesses
- Children's medicines
- Looking after a sick child
- Serious conditions and special needs
- Constipation in young children
- Your baby's height and weight
- Baby health and development reviews
- Leg and foot problems in children
- Learning, play and behaviour
- Safety and accidents
Temper tantrums usually start at around 18 months and are very common in toddlers. Hitting and biting are common, too.
One reason for this is toddlers want to express themselves, but find it difficult. They feel frustrated, and the frustration comes out as a tantrum.
Once a child can talk more, they're less likely to have tantrums. By the age of 4, tantrums are far less common.
These ideas may help you cope with tantrums when they happen.
Toddler tantrum tips
Find out why the tantrum is happening
Your child may be tired or hungry, in which case the solution is simple. They could be feeling frustrated or jealous, maybe of another child. They may need time, attention and love, even though they're not being very loveable.
Understand and accept your child's anger
You probably feel the same way yourself at times, but you can express it in other ways.
Find a distraction
If you think your child is starting a tantrum, find something to distract them with straight away. This could be something you can see out of the window. For example, you could say, "Look! A cat". Make yourself sound as surprised and interested as you can.
Wait for it to stop
Losing your temper or shouting back won't end the tantrum. Ignore the looks you get from people around you and concentrate on staying calm.
Don't change your mind
Giving in won't help in the long term. If you've said no, don't change your mind and say yes just to end the tantrum.
Otherwise, your child will start to think tantrums can get them what they want. For the same reason, it doesn't help to bribe them with sweets or treats.
If you're at home, try going into another room for a while. Make sure your child can't hurt themselves first.
Be prepared when you're out shopping
Tantrums often happen in shops. This can be embarrassing, and embarrassment makes it harder to stay calm. Keep shopping trips as short as possible. Involve your child in the shopping by talking about what you need and letting them help you.
Try holding your child firmly until the tantrum passes
Some parents find this helpful, but it can be hard to hold a struggling child. It usually works when your child is more upset than angry, and when you're feeling calm enough to talk to them gently and reassure them.
Hitting, biting, kicking and fighting
Most young children occasionally bite, hit or push another child. Toddlers are curious and may not understand that biting or pulling hair hurts.
This doesn't mean your child will grow up to be aggressive. Here are ways to teach your child that this behaviour is unacceptable:
Don't hit, bite or kick back
This could make your child think it's acceptable to do this. Instead, make it clear that what they're doing hurts and you won't allow it.
Talk to them
Children often go through phases of being upset or insecure and express their feelings by being aggressive. Finding out what's worrying them is the first step to being able to help.
Show them you love them, but not their behaviour
Children may be behaving badly because they need more attention. Show them you love them by praising good behaviour and giving them plenty of cuddles when they're not behaving badly.
Help them let their feelings out in another way
Find a big space, such as a park, and encourage your child to run and shout. Letting your child know that you recognise their feelings will make it easier for them to express themselves without hurting anyone else.
You could try saying things like: "I know you're feeling angry about … ". As well as showing you recognise their frustration, it will help them be able to name their own feelings and think about them.
For more help
If you're seriously concerned about your child's behaviour, talk to your health visitor or GP.
You could also visit the Family Lives website for more advice on tantrums, or phone their free helpline for parents on 0808 800 2222.
Page last reviewed: 04/10/2019
Next review due: 04/10/2022