Handling Temper Tantrums

Q: How do you know if your child is throwing too many tantrums? What stages of terrible twos should I be expecting? How to discipline a child?

A: As always these stages are dependent on each child and their personality. But eventually every child will push attempt to push their limits. How long this phase lasts is anybody’s guess. Some children may stop as soon as they find out that they really cannot do anything about it. It often happens when parents are always consistent with the rules/boundaries set out.

If you threaten then you should also be able to carry out that threat if they do misbehave. This way they will see that you are serious and that you mean business. If you threaten that you will not go to a place when you really have to then do not say it though it is the first thing you know your child would not want to let go. If they defy you and you do not carry it out then they know they can try to do it again next time. Sometime when disciplining give them a time to calm down, when you are about to enter into a power struggle, which advisably you do not, take some time. Then gently make another offer. Give them two choices that are both acceptable to you.

If the request is unreasonable then do not give in to it. If they choose to wear a long sleeve top on a hot winter’s day (though it was not one of the choices presented) let them put it on. Put the sleeveless and shorts in the bag so when it gets too hot for them then they may decide to agree with you. A child may constantly try to push their boundaries/limits constantly especially if they are able to in certain circumstances. Always just be stern and firm. It is helping your child’s development learning about the rules of society, though it may be difficult. It is also good to let your child experience the consequence of their action, or the mess they have made.

Ask them to clean it up, help you clean it up, and not just do it yourself though it may be easier. It raises their awareness of what happens and gives them a better understanding of situations or why you did not agree to it. Most children do like to help out in any way. Even when you thought they were about to get over testing the water with the many different adults they get to encounter- mommy, daddy, grandparents, teachers and aunts and uncles- you might see a bout of it again, and again just be stern and firm. It too shall pass (if dealt with properly, if not it may be seen again in the teen years!)

What is your own experience of effectively dealing with temper tantrums?

8 Comments on Handling Temper Tantrums

  1. Hi, thanks for all the tips, this site is a wonderfull source of information for me.

    My problem with my 25 m old son is that he’s not throwing tantrums (no crying,shouting, throwing himself to the ground, etc.) but when he’s frustrated by something, he goes to his cupboard in the kitchen or to his practical life area and deliberately throws a glass/china to the floor. Things are even worse when he’s tired, so I try to avoid every possible stress-factor around bedtime, but he has an 8 m sister and sometimes I cannot give my full attention to him…

    Yes, sometimes I yell at him when it happens, especially if I’m too tired to “stop and think”,probably that’s what he’s “expeciting”?! I know, I should have him to help to clean up the mess, but I’m afraid that he’d cut his hand…Should I take away the inappropriatelly handled material, even if this means completelly blocking his access to glass/china by replacing his stuff with plastic plates/cups, which is really un-Montessori? Or any idea what I should do with such a behaviour? Thanks a lot.

    • Buy a few wooden and stainless steel cups and bowls and use those until this phase passes, then try offering ceramics when you think he can handle it better and them reintroduce glass.

  2. i am a montessori adult i have a child in my environment some times he is very good some times he will make a mess so please give me some suggestions

  3. hi,
    I have read the montessori from the start book and it talks about building their “will”. I tried to spend time showing my son how to do things, but he doesn’t seem interested. how can I make his will get better. Also he has started throwing his toys. He is 17 months old, is this just what he does at this stage or can I stop it. thank you

  4. My daughter will be 3 in Feb. She is VERY strong-willed. Most of the time, she is happy with the choices I give her. I do make an effort to give her a lot of choices, though. She gets to pick from 2 options for dinner, 2 options for drinks, 2 options for side veggies, 2 options for dessert, as well as underwear, outfits, and modes of transportation in a store [walk or cart- and she knows that if walking doesn’t work out, we do a “time-out” in the cart, where she has to get in for 2 minutes- which REALLY works, fyi.]

    The only issues I have are.. she is really ornery about WHEN she wants to do things. If we’re running late, she will NOT put her shoes on, so then I will put them on, and then she will cry the whole car ride about how SHE wanted to put her shoes on. I mean, it’s a situation where I’ve warned her beforehand that we had to leave, and then asked her nicely about 5 times to put on her shoes.. she’s just stubborn to the point of not wanting to do it on MY time. In addition to this, when I go to pick her up from her Montessori school, she will see me and run down the hall, laughing, trying to get me to play with her. I don’t know how to communicate that that isn’t the time or place for our play without using a bunch of negatives and being ignored… Any ideas, suggestions? Thanks guys.

  5. We too have a very strong-willed 2 year old. She has become especially defiant and we’re quickly losing our patience. We’ve always given her choices and she goes to an excellent Montessori program during the academic school year. Do you recommend any books/seminars on Montessori at home that focuses on discipline? Thank you.

  6. Hi,

    I wish there was a sure fire way that i can tell you and it will all be okay. You have a child who does not throw tantrums in public (or at home) and still you have not broken her strong will. But with Montessori you allow them freedom within limits. The limits of course are set by you and cannot be broken. Most of these are safety limits such as walking with your hand or pram. It is hard to ignore her tantrums in public but if there was a semi public place that you do not feel too bad to ignore them, try. It will let her know tantrums cannot always work and useless. Observe as well what triggers her tantrums and mood swings- there may or may not be a pattern and if possible of course avoid it. If you are asking something from them of course always explain to them why rather than just telling them to stop. If negotiating is not working, give her 2 choices and see if that works and do not bend. You also have to coordinate this with whoever other adults are around so she is clear and will not try to throw a tantrum to have her way.

    It is if course a phase that will go away- hopefully sooner rather than later.

    Good luck!


    Daily Montessori

  7. Hello,
    I have a 23 month old daughter, who is a wonderful child. She is very social and outgoing, but very strong-willed. We are having trouble controlling her mood swings and tantrums in public. She refuses to hold my hand or go in a stroller. I needed some advise on how to deal with a very strong-willed toddler without breaking their spirits. Negotiating with her has not been successful it sometimes seems like its her way or not at all. Her routine is fairly similar each day with the exceptions of weekends when we are out and about.

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