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Toddler temper tantrums

A temper tantrum is your child’s way of expressing their emotions.

Your child may become frustrated if they cannot make you understand what they want or if they do not get their own way. It's important to teach your child how to manage their emotions and better ways of dealing with their frustrations.

During a temper tantrum, your child may:

  • shout
  • scream
  • kick
  • bite
  • throw things

When temper tantrums start

Your child may show signs of temper tantrums from 18 months on. They may continue until your child is 3 or older.

For many children, these tantrums may only happen a few times. For other children, these tantrums are more frequent and will ease off as they grow. It can be upsetting for you when your child has a temper tantrum. Sometimes it may happen in a public place and can be very distressing for both of you.

Helping your child during a temper tantrum

As your child begins to want more independence, you will have to manage their temper tantrums.

There are ways you can help them through these difficult moments. It’s important that you stay calm while managing a tantrum, as they will be watching to see how you react. This is part of your child’s growth and development. Do not punish your child for this behaviour.

When you say no, say it firmly and calmly. The tone of your voice and their understanding of the word no is important to learn at an early age.

Encourage other good aspects of their behaviour. Notice when they do something well. For example, you could say: "Oh, you said thank you. I love it when you say thank you".

Sometimes children will test you and the limits and boundaries you have set. By giving in to this, your child may do it again.

It's important your child understands that you will take action if they carry on with behaviour that harms themselves or others. Have patience if you find yourself becoming angry or upset with your child’s behaviour. If possible, get another adult to take over minding them while you take some time out.

What to do about biting

Sometimes children of the same age bite each other.

The best way of dealing with biting is to:

  • remove the child who bites and give them the least attention
  • pick up the child who has received the bite

This way, biting seems unrewarding. If the other child tries to join in, remind them to wait because their behaviour was not acceptable. Tell them biting is wrong.

Page last reviewed: 15 September 2022
Next review due: 15 September 2025