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Temper Tantrums By Age – How to Deal

September 15th, 2014 | By: Nancy Ripton
A temper tantrum can mean something different depending on your child’s age. Here’s how to decode the reasons behind the screaming and calm your child down.

In This Article

Temper Tantrums By Age – How to Deal

Acting out at age one can be very different from the screaming sessions that occur a year later. Here's how to handle temper tantrums at all ages:

Handling Temper Tantrums: 12 to 18 months

Why Temper Tantrums Occur:
"Prior to one year, a child is not physically capable–nor does she have the intention–of throwing a tantrum," says childcare manager Beth Urquhart. But around 12 to 18 months, parents will start to notice a difference between distressed crying and a temper tantrum.

At this age "acting out" isn't about getting attention. Early temper tantrums are an emotional outburst that occurs when a child becomes frustrated. "Toddlers are trying to become independent and accomplish tasks and communicate on their own," says Urquhart. "But they have limited language skills and this can be a frustrating time for them." Acting out is their way of expressing their frustration.

How to Best Handle a Temper Tantrum:
At this age the best way to deal with a tantrum is through distraction. "Take her mind off whatever is bothering her by offering an alternative toy or activity," says early childhood education expert Catherine Ciardulii.

It can also help to offer assistance if your child throws a temper tantrum while trying to complete a task. If you notice she is struggling to do something, such as a puzzle, offer to help and relieve her frustration.

Lastly, to avoid public outbursts, make sure all your child's basic needs are met before you go out. "Tantrums are more likely if a child is tired or hungry," says family living educator Sue Giachero.