Q & A with Dr. Cohen on Temper Tantrums

A parent’s nightmare: You are trying to enjoy a wonderful dinner with the family and your toddler is lying facedown on the floor, with their legs kicking in the air as they project the loudest screams possible.

Here are some answers from Dr. Michel Cohen, to help you make this nightmare go away.

1. My child was always so happy and easy as a baby, where is this coming from?

Temper tantrums are actually an important developmental milestone as your child is learning to process situations and express their frustrations. It is often triggered by a sense of being overwhelmed with too many choices, stimulation and a combination of feeling overtired. The case of kicking and screaming typically starts around fifteen months of age, especially if they cannot fully verbalize.

2. What is the best way to calm them down?

I have an easy solution for you – do nothing! No bribing, no hugging, no yelling: simply ignore them. The worst thing to do is to reinforce the outbursts by giving your child extra attention. Give them the opportunity to evolve their own coping mechanism and learn how to manage their own frustrations. And be consistent. Don’t ignore them sometimes, but punish or reward them other times. The unpredictable responses will disrupt the child’s expectations and approach to deal with their emotions. This can lead to extended and more frequents tantrums long term.

3. Other people are staring, what do I do?

I repeat, ignore the tantrum. Yes, it feels mortifying and embarrassing, but trust me, you are not the first person with a toddler who throws a temper tantrum in public. In fact, I am sure most of the parents staring understand how you feel. If it gets out of hand, restrain them to the stroller without explanation or leave where you are. There is no need to try to reason or have a rational discussion with your screaming child.

4. Will these tantrums ever end?

With a lot of patience and persistence in this routine, your child should no longer be throwing tantrums by age two. Start early in encouraging your toddler to establish a way to stay calm and cope with their frustrations. The longer you wait, the harder it will be for you and your child to overcome these temper tantrums.

Read more on temper tantrums here.