Outsmarting Junior

Ever had a meltdown at a supermarket? We let you in on the secret to managing a temper tantrum.


Temper tantrums are exceedingly common in children, especially between ages one and four years. More than half of young children will have one or more tantrums a week as they vent their frustrations and try to push back against a world they want desperately to have some control over.

If you are past the point of not allowing a tantrum to start, here’s how to stop temper tantrums:

1.       Offer Independent Choices

Give your young child some control over his life. Many times kids act up simply because they want a little more independence from you. From the time they wake up, begin giving them choices for little decisions on what they want to eat, what colour clothes they’d like to wear and so on. Do not try and change or influence your child’s choice. Be sensitive to his individuality and respect his choice.

One thing to avoid would be giving your child an open-ended option like, “Do you want to wash your face?” because the answer will almost always be a “NO!” Instead, offer two options, such as, “Would you like to wash your face now or after breakfast?”

2.       Use Distraction

Young children have a very short attention span. The average toddler will change the focus of his attention approximately every minute, so you can use this to your advantage if you feel a tantrum brewing.

When your child keeps insisting on having a candy at the grocery store despite being repeatedly told ‘no’; then distraction would your best option. You can say, “You had candy just yesterday and you can’t have candy again today. If you want, mummy can get you raisins or apple chips.”

Alternatively, you could bring along a bag of goodies as a form of distraction. You can pack it with fun things like toys, books, etc. By using a steady, cheerful voice, you can distract your child from the object of his or her desire. Parents too need to be aware of their own emotions and responses as well, says Daniel Koh, a psychologist at Insights Mind Centre.

3.       Be Firm

Don’t be put out if you child does not accept your choices. Remain calm and reinforce your expectations if your child does not accept the choices you have offered.

“It’s all right if you do not want either of these foods. Mummy is going to put the raisins and apple chips in the shopping trolley first. If you change your mind and want it, you tell Mummy.” It is important to limit the back-and-forth negotiation, says Dr Chu Hui Ping, specialist in Paediatrics and consultant at Raffles Children’s Centre, as it is very rewarding for children to engage their parents in this way and is more likely to intensify the situation versus resolving it.

4.       Do Not Give In

“If you give in, he will learn that if he puts up a fight long enough, he will win and get what he wants. And it will be even more difficult for you to try to enforce a limit the next time. If he continues to protest, calmly continue taking steps to depart while remaining cool. Ignore his screaming,” emphasises Dr Chu, so there is no motivation for him to keep the tantrum going. Continue to talk to him in a calm voice, offering him comfort and some suggestions about what he can do to move on such as getting involved in an activity together. If he still refuses, leave him be with his tantrum and pay as little attention as possible. Any attention, even negative, tends to reinforce the behaviour.

5.       Ignore the Fuss

Do not pay attention to the tantrum. One of the biggest mistakes parents make is to try to help their child “work through” their tantrum. Behaviours associated with tantrums should not be acceptable to you or your family. Take control of the situation.

If you are in public, calmly tell your child you are leaving, even if that means your shopping is not finished. Teach your child the importance of the word “No.”

Explaining to your child that there are consequences for bad behaviour is vital, explains Koh.


Thanks for sharing!