You don't have to be perfect to be the perfect parent!

A few tips to help prevent your child’s tantrum


Tantrums are a part of childhood…but there are a few tips to keep them at a minimum!

One of my most embarrassing moments occurred in a grocery store several years ago, (OK many years ago, my son is now 19!).  I was trying to rush through the store before I had to pick up my daughter from morning kindergarten (first mistake).  It was close to lunch time (second mistake), we had been at the park and he was tired (third mistake) and he had just decided he no longer wanted to sit in the grocery cart.  The yelling began, soon his body became “noodle like” as he tried to slide out of the seat, shrieking ensued, and suddenly he grabbed a can of frozen grape juice and he threw it out of the cart splattering all over me and the floor.  I was embarrassed, angry, sweating, and at a parenting loss.  How does a sweet 3-year-old become so animal like in a matter of moments?

Tantrums during the toddler stage are almost inevitable and some children will continue to throw occasional tantrums into the early school age years.  What is a parent to do?  How do you respond…and was there any way to stop that grape juice from being thrown from the grocery cart?  Maybe…

There are several parenting tips that can help prevent a tantrum:

  1. Do not try to cram too many things into a day with a toddler.  Rushing to complete too many chores puts too much pressure on you and your child.  As I rushed through the grocery store knowing I only had a few minutes to get to carpool line, my son also felt my stress and anxiety…remember kids feed off of your mood.
  2. Never expect good behavior from a toddler who is hungry or tired.  Most toddler tantrums happen during times when a child is hungry or very tired.  Toddlers do not have enough control to handle the world when the basic needs of food and sleep have not been met.  (I am a bit grouchy without my coffee in the morning…I get it!)
  3. Offer choices, but not too many, especially when you see your child beginning to melt down.  Many times when parents see their child starting to throw a tantrum, they will try to defuse the situation by giving all kinds of choices or trying to “fix” it.  The words and questions tend to escalate the child’s anger.  Lots of words, choices, promises…none of them work once the tantrum has begun, they only frustrate the child more.
  4. Give your child attention and give specific praise when you “catch them being good.”  If you have seen an increase in tantrums, assess what your days have been like.  If you have been caught up in a lot of work or activity away from your child, redirecting your attention back to your child will often prevent further meltdowns.  However, remember that a child’s temperament also plays a big part in the number and intensity of tantrums…not just lack of attention.  (Don’t beat yourself up!)
  5. Take a look at your child’s life, especially if you have an older child that has been throwing tantrums.  Has your child started a new activity?  School? Is there a new fear?  Tantrums often occur with a feeling of a lack of control or anxiety.  Dig a bit deeper if you have a young school age child throwing tantrums.  Asking the questions during the tantrum will not work!
  6. Think…have tantrums been successful for your child?  Tantrums will continue if your child has been “rewarded” for the behavior.  In other words, if you have often “given in” to prevent a melt down.  We all bend the rules sometimes, but consistently “giving in” to prevent a tantrum only increases them.
  7. Provide consistent discipline and routine for your child.  Having no boundaries in a home often results in a child who behaves in a way that forces a boundary to be set.  Inconsistent rules and consequences for behavior often results in more tantrums.  Households with boundaries feel secure to a child, and security often decreases outbursts.

What parenting tips have helped you prevent the melt down?   Share a few!  

Remember…anyone who has been a parent has seen a tantrum.  It is nothing new or unique to your child!  We all have “been there and done that”!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.



  1. Ann

    Thanks for this, Cindy. Would love an example of #3. For instance, if I’m trying to make dinner (after we’ve been at work / daycare all day & dad is out of town on business), and I can see the tantrum beginning because I can’t come sit with her at that very moment. What’s an example of something to say to the 16-month old to try to diffuse the situation that won’t overwhelm her?


    • Ann,
      First, make sure that when you get home you spend a few minutes one on one with her before you dive into the normal evening activities like dinner. Then sit her in the kitchen with you, maybe in her highchair, and give her something to do while you cook. Give her a bowl and spoon to “stir” with and “cook” while you cook. Acknowledge that she is wanting to play but you are making dinner. Give her a few healthy snacks to munch on while you work, a few quick soft vegetables to dip and eat will ward off a “too hungry” melt down. Sing songs and talk to her while you work…and if dad is out of town on business…keep that dinner simple! 🙂


  2. With many children I have worked with in the past, and now my own, I find having a transition object (a favorite special toy – only used in transitions) or singing a transition song helps prepare a child to leave something they enjoy doing and on to the next thing. As they get older, providing a time frame helps as well (“one more minute before it’s time to clean up”). Singing the same short song over and over in the same situations helps remind them and prepare them for what may be a transition they’re not ready to make.


    • Great tips…children, especially toddlers need time to transition and until there is a concept of time, the transition objects or songs work wonders! Thanks for the tips!


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