My child is throwing tantrums: Parenting Tips from Play Therapists

Child Tantrum Parenting Tips

Dealing with a child who is throwing tantrums can be challenging and exhausting for parents. But, don’t worry! Play therapists have a variety of tips and techniques to help parents better understand and manage their child’s tantrums. In this article, we will delve into the underlying causes of tantrums, discuss different strategies for dealing with them, and learn valuable parenting techniques from professional play therapists. Remember, you are not alone in this journey, and with the right guidance, you can confidently navigate the world of parenting a tantrum-throwing child.

Table of Contents

  1. Understanding Tantrums
  2. Managing Tantrums
  3. Therapeutic Techniques from Play Therapists
  4. Preventative Measures
  5. Building Connection and Emotional Regulation
  6. FAQs

Understanding Tantrums

Before learning how to manage your child’s tantrums, it is crucial to understand what causes them in the first place. Some common underlying reasons for tantrums include:

  • Feeling overwhelmed or overstimulated
  • Struggling to communicate their emotions effectively
  • Feeling tired, hungry, or uncomfortable
  • Seeking attention or autonomy

It’s essential to note that tantrums are a natural part of child development, especially between the ages of 1 and 4. During this phase, children’s brains are rapidly developing, and they are learning how to navigate their emotions. As a result, tantrums can arise as they try to process and express their emotions without entirely understanding them.

Managing Tantrums

While tantrums are common, it’s crucial to find ways to manage them effectively. Here are some guidelines to follow when your child is experiencing a tantrum:

  1. Stay calm: Your child looks to you for guidance during emotional distress. Therefore, maintaining a calm demeanor will help model appropriate emotional regulation for your child.
  2. Validate your child’s feelings: Allow your child to express their emotions and acknowledge their feelings. This approach helps them know that you hear and understand them.
  3. Offer comfort and reassurance: Let your child know that it’s okay to feel upset. Offering physical comfort, such as a hug, can also help calm them down.
  4. Set clear boundaries: While providing support is crucial, it’s also important to establish limits if your child’s tantrum may lead to dangerous or inappropriate behavior.
  5. Use distraction or redirection: Introducing a new activity or calmly redirecting your child to something else can help them shift their focus and slowly calm down.

Therapeutic Techniques from Play Therapists

Play therapists are experts in dealing with childhood behavior and emotions. They have several techniques that you can apply at home to help manage your child’s tantrums more effectively:

  1. Play mirroring: This technique involves reflecting your child’s actions and words during playtime to create a sense of empathy and understanding. It also helps build a positive connection and makes your child feel ‘seen.’
  2. Create a non-threatening environment: Ensure your child’s play environment is free from judgment and distractions to help them feel safe and comfortable expressing their emotions.
  3. Emotional coaching: Guide your child in identifying and exploring their emotions in a healthy way by naming the feelings they are experiencing, such as “You seem frustrated.”
  4. Introduce play-based coping strategies: Teach your child different ways to cope with frustrations and anger using playtime, such as squeezing a stress ball or drawing their emotions.

Preventative Measures

Even though tantrums are a common occurrence, there are steps you can take to try to reduce their frequency:

  • Establish consistent routines and rules to create a stable environment for your child.
  • Promote and model healthy emotional regulation by talking about feelings openly and calmly.
  • Teach your child alternative ways to express their emotions verbally or by using gestures and facial expressions.
  • Offer plenty of positive reinforcement for appropriate behaviors through praise, hugs, or small rewards.

Building Connection and Emotional Regulation

Ultimately, managing tantrums effectively is about helping your child develop emotional regulation skills and building a strong, positive connection. Consider implementing the following practices:

  • Engage in regular one-on-one playtime to strengthen your bond and create opportunities for emotional expression.
  • Offer opportunities for your child to make choices and exercise autonomy within appropriate limits.
  • Encourage open communication and create a safe environment for your child to express their feelings.
  • Provide comfort and support during emotional moments and equip your child with positive coping strategies and problem-solving skills.


What age do children usually start having tantrums?

While the age range varies, tantrums typically begin around 18 months and may continue until the age of 4. However, tantrums may still occur in older children, especially if they have difficulty dealing with emotions and stressors.

Are tantrums a sign of a behavioral disorder?

Not always. Tantrums are a normal part of child development. However, if your child experiences extensive or extreme tantrums, this may warrant an evaluation by a professional to rule out any developmental or behavioral issues.

How long does a tantrum usually last?

Tantrums can vary in length, ranging from a few seconds to 30 minutes or more. The duration of a tantrum depends on factors such as the child’s age, temperament, and the specific situation causingthe emotional outburst.

How can I help my child who throws tantrums at school?

Develop a plan together with your child’s teacher to create consistency. Communication is essential to ensure that consistent strategies are being used both at home and school to manage tantrums. Additionally, work on teaching your child coping and emotion regulation skills at home to support their behavior at school.

In conclusion, understanding and managing tantrums can be challenging, but by applying play therapy techniques, establishing preventative measures and staying committed to building an emotional connection with your child, you can minimize tantrums and create a nurturing environment for your child’s emotional development. Remember, it’s crucial to be patient and compassionate during this process. Tantrums are a normal part of your child’s growth, and by guiding them through those emotional moments, you’ll help them develop into more emotionally resilient individuals.

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