Preventing Tantrums

The best way to manage tantrums is to prevent them. Here are several tips to prevent the next meltdown.

  • Teach Emotion Language – The more emotion language children have, the less they need to tantrum. The idea is the language can replace to behaviors. If children are able to vent their emotions, they are less likely to boil over. Teach emotion language by labeling and discussing emotions as they happen (yours, theirs and others) and talk about emotions in children’s story books.
  • Teach Ways to Calm – Think of teaching them to count or breathe when they are angry. Teach them to take a few seconds before responding when they are angry (this takes a great deal of effort to teach).
  • Teach Ways to Express – Tantrums are emotions on overload. Teach them ways to express negative emotions such as stomping feet, blowing out hard, shaking hands, hugging themselves hard, running or raising voices. It’s not that one way is better than another, just really think about ways that you are okay with before you teach.
  • Look for Triggers – Triggers are what typically sets your child off. If you can figure out the triggers, you can fix or avoid them. You can teach your child how to best manage them. At the very least, you can see them coming.
  • Rest and Food – If their triggers are being tired or hungry, that is on you. Get them more rest, feed them more often.
  • Look for Cues – Cues are the signs your child is on the edge. My younger daughter always got fidgety before she threw herself on the floor in tantrum mode. That fidgetiness was my red flag to jump in with empathy, positive intent or choices.
  • Give Downtime, Avoid Overscheduling – Busy schedules are a common cause for children to meltdown. If your child is tantrumming often, check how much is required of them throughout the day. Be sure they are having real downtime, playtime where nothing is organized or required.

My next workshop on Managing Tantrums is happening Thursday October 22nd from 7:00-9:00 p.m. at the Falls Church office. To register for this and other evening workshops visit

Author: Dr. Rene Hackney

With a MA in school psychology and a PhD in developmental psychology, I founded and work as a parent educator at Parenting Playgroups. Somewhere in there I trained in the Developmental Clinic at Children's NMC and in the public schools. I have two beautiful, funny children who make me practice what I preach most everyday.

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