Supporting Kids Who Are Having Tantrums

Supporting Kids Who Are Having Tantrums

25 July 2022 • Words by Samantha Weitzberg 2 mins

Why is my child having a tantrum? This is a common question that is raised by parents all over the world, especially those of children between the ages of about two and four and a half. There are many ways to support kids who are having tantrums.

Tantrums among toddlers are very common and can stem from feelings of lack of control, communication issues, tiredness, and overstimulation. Among older children, tantrums become more challenging when they cannot identify and label the feelings that are causing them discomfort.

When we understand the factors that lead a child to have a tantrum and what that expression of emotion looks like for them, we can better support them in extinguishing this behavior.

Understanding Tantrums

According to Caroline Miller, editorial director of the Child Mind Institute, it is important to understand that many tantrums are caused by big emotions such as anger, which are so strong a child does not know how to deal with them. These tantrums can manifest as a mild outburst and can usually be redirected. A meltdown is more intense than a tantrum and occurs when a child is unable to control their actions that they are much more difficult to calm down.

A child who has a tantrum is having trouble regulating their emotions. Therefore, it is important to look at the triggers leading up to the outburst itself. These triggers can include anxiety, anger, ADHD, learning difficulties, and autism.  Skill development that may also be impacting the child when they have an outburst is their ability to problem-solve, delay gratification, and communicate their needs and feelings. In order to build developmentally appropriate coping skills, parents and caregivers need to help the child expand their emotional vocabulary. Doing so will help kids learn to describe their emotions and use appropriate language when their frustrations arise. 

At the same time, according to the Child Mind Institute, parents and caregivers should resist the urge to jump in and assist the child with regulating their emotions, as that can easily become a habit. Instead, adults should provide children the opportunity to practice their self-regulation skills, even if it is challenging at first. Just like any other exercise, it takes time and consistency to develop self-regulation muscles.

Try a Moshi Moment

In the activity Tame Tantrums with Mumbo, Mumbo the Punky Monkey uses words to narrate his coping strategies. Mumbo provides a playful game for children to experiment with understanding their emotions. The “word bank” can enable children to use emotional language in context and as it relates to Mumbo’s tantrum. Practicing the activity when your child is calm and not in the middle of a tantrum. Think about ways to encourage your child when they use one of Mumbo’s cool-down strategies.

Samantha Weitzberg

Samantha Weitzberg, RYCT, RYT, is an early childhood teacher, yoga instructor, and mindfulness leader living in New York. She is also a first-time mom to a baby boy, but has been a puppy mom for a while.