No one wants to deal with tantrums, but they’re unavoidable in being around young children.

So, how do you stop them?

Education resources


Understanding what a tantrum is

The first thing to know is what a tantrum is. A tantrum is how children (or older people with emotional issues) process emotions. It’s most commonly a result of being hungry, tired, uncomfortable, or overwhelmed. It can also be a way for children to attempt to exert control over their environment.

Knowing this, how do we deal with it? Well, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Doing what you can to ensure your students are fed, well-rested, and generally in good health is one of the best ways to reduce tantrums. Vigilance is also important. If you can see that one of your kids is tired and heading towards a tantrum, give them a chance to get some rest, even if it’s just sitting with their head on their desk.

Plenty of positive reinforcement also goes a long way in preventing tantrums. Rewarding children for good behavior will result in more of that behavior and fewer tantrums.

How to handle a tantrum

Prevention is not perfect, though. Eventually, you’ll be in a situation where there’s going to be a tantrum. So, what do you do then? Like almost anything in life, the first step is to stay calm. Getting worked up will likely only result in the child’s tantrum escalating. So stay as calm and level as possible.

The next step is to attempt to determine the source of the tantrum. If the child is hungry, overwhelmed, or tired, address those issues. Punishing them, in this case, will not fix the problems and will likely only cause more problems.

Distraction can be a valuable tool if you can’t determine the source of the tantrum. Simply suggesting they play with a toy or do something else can pull them out of the situation and prevent the tantrum from happening.

If the tantrum is over a control issue, like not wanting to get ready to do something, introducing a choice to the situation can give them the sense of control they’re looking for and a distraction all at the same time. For example, you can ask which thing they’d like to do first instead of telling them to do something.

It is essential to remember not to give in to tantrums, though. If you do, the child will learn that’s a way to get what they want, and they will continue to do so.

Some final tips

If you cannot head it off, though, and the child is now having a full-on tantrum, what now? Well, if it’s a tantrum over control, many experts will say ignore it – as long as they’re not being destructive to themselves or the environment. If it’s because they’re overwhelmed somehow, your best bet is to move them to a quieter area where they can ride it out. Talking to them can be useful, but it can also be detrimental if they’re overwhelmed, particularly if they have communication issues. So be sure to wait until after the tantrum has subsided before having a conversation.

After the tantrum has subsided, it is vital to discuss it. The discussion should focus on problem-solving and how to help prevent stuff like this from happening in the future. Making a plan the child can follow if they start to feel overwhelmed can be a great idea. It’s also essential to reassure the child that tantrums happen, we deal with them, and it’s not the end of the world. Reassuring a child can go a long way in preventing future tantrums.