Toddler Tantrums and Meltdowns

Michele Borba's picture

by Michele Borba, Ed.D.
Excerpted from Don't Give Me That Attitude!

tantrumsTantrums are sure to be in the top of parents' list of "obnoxious kid behaviors" and when your kid uses this routine in public it's just plain humiliating. Here are a few secrets to stopping those meltdowns.



Anticipate — don't wait. Your best bet is to always anticipate the meltdown before the explosion. And each child has unique signs that a tantrum is on its way so watch for your child's: a tight fist, antsiness, a certain whimper – then immediately redirect his behavior. "Want to get out of the stroller and push it with Mommy." Or distract him: "Look at that little boy over there."



Do NOT react. Kids use tantrums to get what they want because they've learned it works. So never to give in to the outburst. If you must use earplugs do so, turn your back or even walk away: No eye contact, no words, no reaction. In fact, the more involved you are, the longer the tantrum lasts. So don't react.



Set a consequence. If the behavior persists then set a consequence such as time out. There's a trick though: time out only works if you use it every time the tantrums occurs and the minute it starts. So wherever you are -- calmly move your kid to a secluded spot — no toys, TV or other kids — so he learns to doesn't deserve to play or receive attention from anyone when he uses inappropriate behavior. Time starts the minute he is CALM – not before. The rule is usually one minute for age.



Teach self-control. Teach your child how to express strong feelings using words instead of tantrums. Encourage him to tell how he feels: "I'm mad" or "I feel cranky." Do praise him when he tells you his frustrations: "You asked for help when you were upset. Good for you!" Tantrums are never pleasant, but you can use them to teach your child important lessons on communicating needs and handling frustrations appropriately.



Remember: behavior is learned. Make sure you're teaching your children the right way to behave, then don't stop until they do.

buy her bookMichele Borba, Ed.D., is an educational psychologist, former teacher, and mom who is recognized for offering research-driven advice culled from a career of working with over one million parents, educators, and children. A frequent Today show contributor she also appears on Dr. Phil, The View, CNN American Morning, and The Early Show, Michele is the author of 22 books including her latest release, The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries. Visit her daily blog on or follow her on twitter.

Copyright © Michele Borba. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.