Tips for Managing Temper Tantrums

Dad talking to his son at grocery storeTemper tantrums can be very frustrating to deal with. All children have a temper tantrum at one point in time or another. They can happen in the home, school, in grocery stores, although they may not necessarily happen when the child is at another person’s house.

Temper tantrums are a child’s way of expressing anger and frustration at not getting what he or she desires, when there is difficulty expressing feelings, or when he or she know that the tantrum will result in getting what he or she wants.

Parents can be easily frustrated because the tantrums are not always easily dealt with, especially when the tantrum happens in the grocery store. That seems to be more like the child egging on the parents to actually follow through with what the parents say they will do.

Are tantrums a test from the child to the parent? It could be. When a parent is telling a child that he or she can’t do something if he or she has a tantrum, a child will definitely test that theory. When the tantrums happen, the child is looking at the parent to see if the parent is going to follow through with what is said. When the tantrum is “successful” and the parent gives in, then the child knows that tantrums result in getting his or her way.

When the tantrum is not successful the parents don’t give in, they follow through with what was said and the child learns that the tantrum is not the way to deal with things. That’s a hard thing, mostly for the parent. The child can whine, scream, yell and go on for what seems like hours. At the point that the child continues with the tantrum behavior and does not appear to give up, is when the parent tends to give in which only reinforces that the tantrum is the way to go.

Helpful hints:

  1. Don’t give in. When the tantrum is not given the attention that is needed to work, the tantrum will fade. As a parent, you will still want to observe your child so they don’t get hurt, or hurt others from their tantrum, but still do not give in.
  2. Stay calm. It is difficult to stay calm when a child is having a tantrum but you are the parent, the adult, and still know what’s best for your child. If you have your spouse around, and you are getting frustrated, then do a “tag out” but still both parents stay calm.
  3. Speak calmly to your child: that helps to keep you in control of the situation. The child could get louder, but speaking calmly can help shorten the behavior. You can say that when the tantrum is done, then we can talk about the situation.
  4. Let your child know what is expected of him or her when they go into the grocery store or other place or activity. You can also let them know that if there is a tantrum then they will not be able to do something later. This is where the follow through needs to happen, so when you say this, make sure the action can be followed through.
  5. Validate feelings. When the tantrum is done, tell your child that you knew he was able to regain control.
  6. When a child does not have a tantrum where her or she normally would, provide praise for that. That will help increase improved behavior and her own confidence that she does not need to have a tantrum and will be alright when she doesn’t have one.

© Copyright 2010 by Kelly Sanders, MFT. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • michael

    October 27th, 2010 at 7:26 PM

    I have observed this with my own child many many years ago.agreeing to and giving into their tantrums a couple of times makes them believe that it is an alternate way of getting what they want from the parent.but refuse and don’t relent a few times and they will easily understand that this will not work!

  • Kayla

    October 28th, 2010 at 4:41 AM

    I always found that with my own children when they were going through this phase that the more elevated my anger or my voice became the more elevated the temper tantrum bacame. Staying calm may make them continue the bad behavior but at least it would stay fairly moderated as ,long as I did too. And I also found that typically the tantrum would not last quite as long. And for me nothing worked better to overcome a grocery store temper tantrum was to simply push the buggy calmyl to the next aisle. That child will come running so fast to find you (without tears!) that it could make your head spin.

  • JFC

    October 28th, 2010 at 7:47 PM

    having seen a lot of grocery store antics of children to get their parents to do something or to get them somethig I can say confidently that not giving in to such things is the best thing for not only the parent but also for the child’s development.the child may have his way by throwing tantrums but it is not possible to do the same in the outer world,is it?

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