Throwing a tantrum, pitching a fit, having a meltdown.

Screaming, kicking, and generally full body gyrations are involved in the throwing, pitching, and having  an emotional (and physical) outburst.

A friend of mine mentioned on Facebook her son was having one of those moments, right next to her. It appeared to involve being denied the use of a particular chair.


This mom is a seasoned mom, kid number 5. She was able to express her exasperation with a  *Sigh*.  She’s seen this before, many times. She knows it’s a moment. And she knows there is a good likelihood the moment will return.

She’s calm. She’s a realist.

Two important qualities for a parent to have.

Tantrums aren’t all the same. They may look the same but the way to prevent each is very different.

“I’m hungry, hot, tired,  and thirsty meltdown.”  A basic need meltdown.

“I’m frustrated.” A big outburst when the learning curve is too high and the frustration basket is already full. A developmental tantrum.

“I want my way.”  We know this one right away when we see it. This is the power hungry kid looking to win a power struggle. The control freak fit.

Prevention is the place to start. We won’t eliminate them but we can reduce the number and intensity.

Basic Need: Avoid running errands right before nap or meal time. This can be a challenge but be aware if you choose to push the basic needs boundaries it is quite likely a meltdown will occur. One mom I know travels with lollipops to avoid the meltdown. Anticipating and meeting the need to eat, stay comfortable, be rested (lack of rest, a typical holiday tantrum), quench a thirst can reduce many potential meltdowns. Help you child express his needs, “You feel upset because you are hungry. Let’s go get some food right now! I’m hungry too!” Describe the feeling, identify the reason, provide a solution, show empathy.

Developmental: Kids are learning and growing a a rapid rate. Kids can become overwhelmed and angry. Lots of frustration can occur when learning a new skill. Break the learning times into smaller pieces so the child can feel more success. Father’s do not exasperate your children. Avoid going overboard with your expectations- high expectations are good but impossible expectations, not so good. Give your young child words to describe his feelings: mad, sad, glad for the nonverbal youngsters. For the older, more verbal kids train them to describe more than “mad” use words like: frustrated, irritated, or exasperated.

Control Freak Fit: This one is the most annoying. We can kind of understand the basic needs and developmental outbursts, but the power struggle ones make us crazy. Lots of  fits pitched for power let the parent know the child may need a little more control over certain parts of his life where appropriate. “You can pick which cereal you want for breakfast.” “Which pair of shorts would you like to wear?”  And if the parent starts sentences with, ” Yes, when…”  rather than “No, not until.. ” the fits will also be fewer. When the child feels as if Mom and Dad are on his team rather than an obstacle, tantrums will decrease. I love the commercial where the dad rethinks his decision and allows his daughter to wear her fairy princess costume to picture day. Some battles are not worth fighting and are a part of the beauty of being a little kid. (We don’t have to be so serious.)

Okay…so what happens if you have met needs, broken-down learning, and allowed the child more of a voice and a tantrum still occurs? 

Say, “Timmy, take the tantrum to your room (or where ever your tantrum place is). When you are ready to leave the tantrum, come on back to me and we can cuddle an read a book.”  Stay calm.

By saying take the tantrum and leave the tantrum the child feels as if the tantrum is a separate entity and he can separate from it. Once he is able to remove the tantrum, allow him back into the family-fold right away and give a POSITIVE consequence. Reinforcing the thing you want, a shorter tantrum and a child who is learning to self-regulate.

Stay calm, like my friend. Be realistic, like my friend. Tantrums and kids go together BUT moms and dads  can impact the number and intensity.

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead,
bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
Ephesians 6:4
What have you found to be a successful tantrum reduction strategy?

© LoriWildenberg. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Lori Wildenberg is a licensed parent and family educator, parent coach, and co-founder of 1Corinthians13 She has written 6 books including Messy Journey: How Grace and Truth Offer the Prodigal a Way Home; The Messy Life of Parenting: Powerful and Practical Ways to Strengthen Family Connections; and her most recent book, Messy Hope: Help Your Child Overcome Anxiety, Depression, or Suicidal Ideation. Contact Lori for your next event or for parent consulting or parent training courses. Lori can also be found mentoring over at the MOMS Together Group on Facebook.

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