How to Handle Your Child’s Temper Tantrums & Meltdowns
- Tantrums are a normal part of child development—meltdowns can happen when kids are tired, hungry, or uncomfortable.
- Every child exhibits pre-tantrum signs, and once you can recognize them, you will be able to defuse the situation before their momentum begins to build into total meltdown mode.
- When they’re in it, be present with them, help them name their feelings, and show them coping strategies, like taking deep breaths.
Temper Tantrum TriggersNo matter how frustrating they can be, tantrums (a.k.a. emotional dysregulation) are an expected part of child development. They're how young children show that they're upset—meltdowns can happen when kids are tired, hungry, or uncomfortable.
You know it’s coming and there is no stopping it—your child is melting down. When children don’t have enough tools to manage their feelings, it can lead to big outbursts or temper tantrums. So that’s why our educators are sharing tips to help you prepare and manage meltdowns at every age.
Preparing for Big Emotions Before a Tantrum HappensJust as you would prepare for any other event, being ready for a meltdown can be a big help in the moment. As we talked about earlier, we know that tantrums are going to happen because they are expected in your child’s development—so try taking a proactive approach. When your child is calm, teach them how to self-soothe and regulate their emotions by naming emotions for little ones, practicing breathing techniques with preschoolers, and introducing journaling to school-agers. These little practices will help reduce the frequency of tantrums as they get older because they will have learned the skills to understand and regulate their emotions, and tantrums will no longer be useful for them.
But inevitably, you and your kiddo will experience tantrums. All kids exhibit pre-tantrum signs, and once you can recognize them, you will be able to defuse the situation before their momentum begins to build.
Correcting your child in that moment will probably only push them away when what they really need is for you to be close. Even if they don't want to talk about it in the moment, knowing you're there is a pretty big deal. You can find another moment when they're in a better head space to talk about more productive ways to manage their stress/feelings. Try saying something like, “Looks like you had a big day, let’s have a snack and talk about it.” Model coping strategies for them, like talking it out and practicing deep breathing exercises.
Managing a Meltdown in the MomentNo matter how much you prepare, tantrums are going to happen. Here are a few tips to help you help them. The number one thing for you to do is keep your cool (we know this is challenging at times, but it will be so worth it!) and invite them into your calm. Kids learn to internally regulate their emotions from external models like you.
And listen, we get it. Navigating tantrums is tough, and sometimes we don’t manage them as well as we want to in the moment. That’s okay, We’re all human, and we all have big emotions. If you ever lose your cool, try to acknowledge it afterward—it's a great way to show your child that we are all still learning. You can talk about how you’d like to handle it in the future and maybe even make a plan together.
While most meltdowns are expected behavior, there may be times when you need some additional help or advice. If your child’s temper tantrums are consuming a lot of your time or getting in the way of your family functioning, try talking to your pediatrician about it. They can help identify tantrum triggers and help you create strategies that are tailored specifically for your child and your family.