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Temper Tantrums

Shakin BONES Time…so many people at workshops ask me how to handle temper tantrums or “emotional outbursts” with young children. As if there is something wrong with these modes of communication in young children. Young children often live in the right side of the brain, which is the impulsive, emotional, and nonverbal side; the left side is the impulse-control center.


When a child expresses their emotional needs through a tantrum it is because:

• Frustration with their own limited abilities to express feelings and communicate with words

• The need to assert independence

• Feeling a lack of control

• Having either too few or too many limits

• Hunger, fatigue, overstimulation and boredom


When the tantrum occurs, focusing on their emotional needs is more important than focusing on stopping the behaviors associated with the tantrum.

· Give the child opportunities to express their feelings

· Avoid shaming the child

· Say to the child, “You need this time for yourself, I will let you tell me when you are ready”

· Give the child the opportunity to be in control by asking, “Is this a good safe place for you to express your feelings?”


Everyone needs to feel in control of their lives. A tantrum is one way that a young child attains it. Usually the tantrum diminishes as a child feels this control. Do you know adults who still are looking for this control and therefore continue to have emotional outbursts? It takes practice and some need more practice than others.