What NOT to Do During A Temper Tantrum


July already? Where is the summer going? Heather here, from FamilyVolley.com, and today I am sharing a few “what not to do’s” when it comes to temper tantrums. Because even though school might be out for the summer, our parenting gig never gets a summer break.

Temper tantrums are a normal part of childhood. For a complete step by step guide on how to prevent and deal with temper tantrums, check out these posts. Temper Tantrums Part 1 and Part 2.

In the heat of the tantrum, there are few things most parents try, that just don’t work. Here is a quick reference guide of 4 things you should NOT DO when the tantrum breaks out.

First, Don’t Ask Questions. Ugh, I find myself guilty of this one. In the middle of a tantrum I want to ask “why are you throwing a fit”, “what happened”, “talk to me and tell me what is wrong.” But, small children don’t have the mental development or language skills to express what they are feeling. So asking them questions in the heat of the fit, will most likely add frustration and prolong the tantrum.

Second, Lose the Empty Threats. Don’t threaten to take away the treat, or put them in their room, or take them to sit in the car, if you are not going to follow through. Just don’t do it. Empty threats actually teach kids to misbehave. Plus, not following through sets us up to lose our position of authority with our children. If we are going to threaten, we have to follow through. Quickly and without emotion. The key is to be consistent. If you can’t follow through with the threat, don’t threaten.

Third, Don’t Use Reason. In the middle of a temper tantrum is not the time to explain to your two year old that eating a 6th piece of licorice is not a great idea because of the red dye in the candy. Or that the weather man says it is going to rain and she is going to need to wear the coat she is refusing to put on. There will be time for reasoning and explaining later on. During the tantrum, our children can’t access their rationalizing and reasoning skills. Tantrums are about emotion, not reason, so trying to use reason won’t help us.

Fourth, Don’t Yell. Our kids are looking for attention when they throw a tantrum. They want a reaction and it doesn’t matter if it comes from positive behavior, or negative behavior. Yelling gives them the attention they are looking for, so we can’t do it. Instead we need to take a deep breath, count to ten in our head, and remember that we are the adult, and then act like one. Solid research shows that parents who yell and get angry, have children who demonstrate the same behavior. So when we yell, we are actually teaching our children to yell and be angry too. Teaching them to do exactly what we say we don’t want them to do.

Tantrums are challenging. Instead of yelling and throwing out empty threats, give your child a hug, or stay close to them and assure them you are going to stay with them until “they are done”. Remember, Compassion is always more powerful than anger.

Have a question, or just want to say hello? You can find me at FamilyVolley.com. On PinterestFacebook, and Twitter. Or send me an email. I love making new friends.


  1. says

    These are great! My son has recently started throwing tantrums, and he is little so all of these definitely apply. He understands what I say but can’t tell me why he is upset. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Donna says

    I disagree with staying with them. That sounds miserable for the parent and I don’t believe it shortens the tantrum. The tantrum can go on for a very long time. I have seen it myself. When my daughter threw a tantrum at three, I walked her to her bedroom and told her(fact like, not threatening) when she was done she could come out. For her it worked every time. She would come out and get a hug.

    • Christine says

      i foster kids and have seen some really intense, violent tantrums.
      every therapist has told me to make sure they are physically safe, then walk away. before i do i always say “i love you but i’m walking away now, when you are finished we can talk”. for foster kids it’s often just a need to have control. having new home, “family”, school is frightening for kids. others simply haven’t had anyone acknowledge/listen/hold/feed/love them until they make a scene. negative attention is still attention. with toddlers it usually takes 5wks for them unlearn the behavior. use same technique on older kids who whine, nag, fain affection and being helpful – thankfully they get the message quicker.

    • Lyn says

      That is what my mother always did with us kids and her grandkids. Took them to a quiet place and said “you can come out when you are done”. sometimes she would say “your crying and yelling are hurting my ears so you need to stay in here until you are done”.

  3. Karina says

    When my children (6 ,and 3yr old boys) decide to have a fit, I tell them go to your room . I dont give them a reason. 5 minutes or less they come out saying. Mommy im sone crying.

    • Katie says

      They actually GO to their rooms?? My 3 yr old says “No!!” to anything I say during a tantrum and if I physically put him in his room he just runs right out and follows me around screaming his little brain out. I love my kids, I love my kids… Lol.

  4. Rachel says

    When I show compassion and love during tantrums I end up being hit, kicked and abused. I leave the room and he trashes everything in sight not caring about the safety of others or himself or his belongings. It is so awful. His tantrums have gotten out of control since he was 2, now he is nearly 6. I have tried so many things, diet, naturopath, different parenting tactics, etc. At such a loss.

      • Emily says

        I was just reading a book that says if kids trash their rooms while having a tantrum, let the room stay a wreck – they will have nothing left to trash, and then after a week or so when they stop trying to trash things you can put it back. I haven’t had to try this yet as my two year old doesn’t trash her room (yet) she just does time outs on a step.

      • Riri says

        Hug them and running our fingers through their hair. Don’t ask any questions. Just say that We love them. I know it sound lame but I’ve been in this situation once, and it’s works.

  5. Kathy says

    The best thing to do is make sure that they are safe and then just walk away. Do not hug them, talk to them or yell at them. Tantrums are a all about getting and monopolizing your attention and any attention that your give them while they are behaving like that, positive or negative, makes the tantrum a success and ensures that it will be repeated.

  6. Leslie says

    Great ideas, but please spell and grammar check again. Loose instead of lose, die instead of dye. It really detracts from the educated points you’re trying to make!!

  7. says

    I really love this and have been trying to remember this when my 3 year old throws a tantrum. It can be especially challenging because she has a speech delay and sometimes she throws one because she just can’t make me understand. I always have the “BE KIND” motto in the forefront of my brain when she melts down and try to remember that she doesn’t know how to express herself like an adult. She still will receive consequences if she throws things or acts out while upset like timeout or limited screen time, but usually the tantrum is shortened remarkably by me being open, letting her vent a little frustration, removing her from the situation and giving her a hug once she’s started to calm down. Commiserating like, “I know, it is so frustrating when we have to wear boots when we want to wear flip flops.” honestly does seem to make a difference. Anyway, sorry for the hugely long comment – just wanted to say I really appreciated reading the post!

  8. Shenice says

    I have to disagree. This doesn’t seem too rational. I usually ask my daughter “Are you being a big girl today?” when she starts a tantrum. I walk her to her room and tell her when she’s ready to be a big girl, she can come out. It takes her about 5-10 minutes to calm herself and she comes out of the room to give me a hug and kiss. It’s like nothing happens.

  9. says

    Thank you so much for this post! I have a wonderful 2 and a half year old and he throws tantrums that include slamming doors, throwing his toys and he has picked up this nasty little spitting behavior. This gives me hope. I am also guilty of asking questions and it seems to make things worse!

  10. Hazel says

    Hi. .
    I just want to know whether showing compassion while he’s throwing a temper tantrum will give him the wrong impression of my opinion about it

    • The Idea Room Assistant says

      As always, every child is different and you as their parent know whats best. Thanks.

  11. Lisa schulz says

    It would be helpful to give insight of what to do, and clues to knowing if they are having a tantrum or being defiant


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