Q&A: How Can I Handle a Bad Temper Tantrum?

CME WebsitesBehavior, Challenging Behavior

blockquote_bgMy daughter has a bad temper tantrum where she throws herself on the floor and hits her head. She would also throw things at people. I really don’t know what to do. It also got so bad that she took a glass off a table and almost broke it. I don’t want this to get any worse.

You did not state the age of your child, but temper tantrums, even severe ones such as you describe, are a common developmental stage in children from before age two into the preschool years. Depending on the age of your daughter there would be slightly different ways to handle tantrums, but your main point is to ignore them whenever possible, unless she is hurting someone or something by throwing/hitting/kicking. In this case you may need to hold her facing away from you until she calms herself or remove her to a safe corner of the house. Do not talk to her and ignore all her attempts at attention getting. If your child is over age 2 and is understanding language in an age appropriate manner, you need to start to develop rules with her for your home in simple language…”We use nice touches, we do not hit, hitting hurts” and “We do not throw toys”.

Be aware that if you are using hitting/smacking as a punishment for your child when you are angry with her, then she may copy your behavior and be using hitting and aggression when she is mad as well. Young children will lash out when they are mad or frustrated because they lack the language to express these feelings. You can tell her calmly “I know you are mad because I said “no cookies”, but you may NOT hit me”.

If she feels the need to hit and kick, then make her a corner in your home where it is safe to do so-pile up sofa cushions or pillows and blankets on the floor and she has a tantrum, let her kick, hit and bang her head on the pillows, but make it clear that she may not hit, kick people or throw items. Head banging is common during tantrums in young children too, and some children will escalate this behavior if constant attention is drawn to it by a parent saying “don’t bang your head” or looking shocked by the behavior…the majority of children learn on their own that it does hurt and if attention is not given to it, the behavior will fade. If you feel you need additional help with behavior or that your daughter’s behaviors are not typical for her age then do consult with your local early intervention provider for an evaluation.