By: Barbara Desmarais, Parenting and Life Coach

There aren’t a whole lot of behaviors that test our patience as a parent more than temper tantrums. If we’re over tired, over scheduled, or over worked, it’s often the last thing we want to have to deal with. Some children have them on occasion but many children have them regularly.

Generally speaking there are three different circumstances that bring on tantrums. One is when a child doesn’t get her way so she has a tantrum until she gets what she wants. The second is when a child is over stimulated and/or over tired and they simply can’t cope any more and the smallest thing will sent them over the edge. The last type of tantrum is when a child wakes up from a nap and suddenly falls into a temper tantrum. I’ve experienced all three with all of my children.

When a child has a temper tantrum to get what she/he wants and we give in, we are essentially teaching him that that is the way to get what you want. Often we find ourselves saying: “Ok, but this is the LAST one!” or “Ok, here, have it.” We become desperate to stop the screaming so the easiest thing to do is to give in.  The more we give in, the more we can be assured that in situations where children are trying to get something, we will experience more and more tantrums because they’ve learned from our actions that they work. If we say no and stick to our word, they soon learn that crying and screaming gets them nowhere. The important thing is to be consistent and to tell yourself that not giving in will pay off enormously in the long run.

The second type of tantrum is when a child is hungry, over tired, or over stimulated. We’ll often see children fall apart late in the afternoon. It’s at these times we need to review if we should have maybe gone out only once instead of several times, or had several small snacks available throughout the day instead of expecting our child to wait until meal times to eat.  It’s my belief that most young children benefit from a quiet time everyday, even after they’ve grown out of naps. Also, too much stimulation for some children can do more harm than good. Be aware of how much your child can handle. In the meantime, humour often works well and is a good distraction. Under no circumstances though should a child be allowed to hurt anyone or destroy property.

The third type of tantrum is when children are waking from a nap and have difficulty making the transition from sleep. They often become confused and disorientated which is upsetting.  In this situation, it is best just to understand what’s happening and be in close proximity.  Sometimes all you can do is let them go through it until they calm down.

If we as parents are well rested and our own needs are being met, we’re much better equipped for most things that come our way, including temper tantrums.


Barbara Desmarais, ECE, is an interpreter for the deaf, Sign Language teacher, and baby sign teacher. She is also a parenting and life coach. Her web site is .