Coping with toddler tantrums?


I am not a parent, but today I was assisting in Sunday school, and a little girl who I am very close with (she’s four) was having a rough day. She wanted to get her purse from the main service, but I explained that it would disrupt what the adults were doing. She was really throwing a fit about it, so I took her out into the hall and sat by her, waiting til she calmed down. But my goodness, children can scream/cry for so long! If I had known how long it would take her to settle, I would have gotten her mom to take care of the situation. Finally, she got quieter, and I explained that if she could calm herself down, we could go in together to get her purse.

I am curious to know how others deal with these kinds of situations. I am absolutely against physical punishment, so I tend to let kids just take their time and work through their emotions. I don’t want to reward bad behavior by just getting the purse while she’s still whining. Being patient and waiting for her to calmly ask seemed like the right move at the time, but now I am doubting myself.

Thanks in advance.

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Toddler tantrums are rough!

I’m blessed on the whole [name_f]Lilia[/name_f] doesn’t have a lot of tantrums but at the same time she’s still young hasn’t hit the stereotypical ‘terrible two’ stage yet. However I’ve had some shockers from her and she’s also not behaved the best in certain situations. I feel as a first time mum I’m still learning, I’ve also recently become a single mum and motherhood on the whole can be challenging so I’ve had moments that I’m not proud off.

On the whole I tend to kneel down to Lilia’s level and say to her that I get she’s frustrated and it’s okay to be frustrated but the way she’s responding isn’t the best. I then pull her into a hug hold her tightly so she can’t thrash her limbs about (not too tight but tight enough) and whisper in her ear to listen to my heartbeat. I have an irregular heartbeat so she has to listen extra hard I think because I’m whispering it weirds [name_f]Lilia[/name_f] out as I’m a loud flamboyant person and then eventually she calms down so I can explain in my usual loud voice how we can’t do x and the reasoning behind it. [name_u]Or[/name_u] shall we go do y now together or whatever. I do that everywhere sat on the floor in the middle of the garden centre today doing that with her. I try and follow this as I like the gentle parenting route. But don’t get me wrong I’ve reacted in ways I’m ashamed off I’ve shouted at her, even sworn and have been a bit rough with her, at times being a mum is tough!

Of course this is more a parental perspective but maybe this will help :white_heart:


Not a Parent but I did take care of siblings frequently

I think what most people want is to make kids quiet as fast as possible , which I understand but that’s just not always going to happen. I would always talk calmly and never raised my voice. I would explain why we couldn’t or had to do whatever was causing it. If they were hitting themselves or throwing themselves on the floor I stopped them gently. Usually a hug or rubbing their back helped. If doing these things didn’t help, I would stop, wait a few seconds, then try again. I would do this over and over until they calmed down (Never had to repeat more than 4 times). Also this is going to sound weird but sometimes I would take them to look outside/ at nature and it helped sometimes. Other times they just needed to be left alone for a few seconds. Reassuring helps too.

I wouldn’t say I’m an expert, but that’s the advice I can give


Thank you for sharing your experience! I really think it’s harder in some ways for me to handle myself than the child in these situations, so I empathize with you there. I kept having to close my eyes and take deep breaths. I’m sorry to hear that you are now single parenting, that must be so difficult. I’ll be praying for you and Lilia. :two_hearts:

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I won’t suggest anything you aren’t comfortable with, just some solidarity: I have seven siblings and three children. It is truly amazing how long a child can scream.
And no, don’t reward the inappropriate behavior by giving in while they’re still demanding. If they don’t feel a tantrum is profitable, eventually they’ll quit using that type of tactic to demand their way.


Honestly I think for me I want to fix the situation stop the tantrum and it can be a bit overwhelming which is why I have snapped at times. Counting to ten closing your eyes and picturing a nice place helps me along with just walking away (if your somewhere safe) can help. But I agree it’s harder for adults! Thank you it’s actually okay I’m blessed as [name_f]Lilia[/name_f] is a dreamy little girl single parenting was for the best in the long run appreciate your prays though that’s very kind :white_heart:


There is also such a difference between it being someone else’s kid and your own, tbh.

Looking at your first sentence, “was having a rough day” jumps out. As adults, I think we tend to just want to make the noise stop and not focus so much on why the child is acting that way to being with. Not saying you did that here but just in general and that includes myself often! Something about a screaming child makes us react and take notice!

I think you handled it well in this situation. With my son, I try hard to pause my own reaction and try to figure out what is wrong. Is he tired? Does he see a toy that he wants yet I’m sitting here talking instead? His he hungry? Does he miss me/his dad? Is he over stimulated? Yes, the screaming and tantrums aren’t a “proper” way for them to act (though is often age appropriate, really…we are talking about really young kids here) but I find that identifying the issue and dealing with that helps pave a way to talk about the behavior later.

Another thing that I realized is that I 100% cannot de-escalate a screaming child if I am emotionally charged. That’s adding fuel to the fire and can lead to me reacting in a way that I will be kicking myself for later. It also isn’t a good example either. Yelling at little [name_u]Johnny[/name_u] that yelling is naughty doesn’t make much sense. Sometimes I walk away for a bit or take a deep breath. Then I deal with it. I’m the adult trying to guide my child…I need to be able to have self-control to help them learn it.


I agree with everyone else. Your approach is very supportive. Don’t doubt yourself.

I would say something like I understand, you want to go get your purse now. We can’t do that just yet because it will disrupt what the adults are doing.
We have to wait ?mins before we can go get it, so lets do this alternative while we wait…

If the tantrum continues in [name_f]Sunday[/name_f] school I would say:

I understand it is hard to wait. You really want your purse now and instead it isn’t the right time yet. Would you like a hug. How about we go out of this room and we can wait together out here. Tell me about your purse. Is it new? What do you keep inside?


i think you did a great job!

i’m not a parent, however, i would have handled the situation very similar to you. removing a child who is having big emotions from a room can be really beneficial, however, make sure you explain to them why you are doing so. something simple like “i’m going to take you out into the hallway so we can have a conversation about this, okay?” or “let’s talk outside so i can hear about your feelings” otherwise it can feel isolating to the kid.
once out in the hall, i would explain why she cannot go get her bag and give her a time frame of when she can, with something fun to do while waiting. like “you can’t get your purse right now, but let’s go play with legos for thirty minutes!”
i would also recommend giving the child some form of physical contact whether it be holding her hand, or giving her a hug. getting down to her level will be beneficial as well so she doesn’t feel like you are talking down to her. leading her through deep breaths will also help. physical contact will help relax her body, and the breathing will relax her mind, and give her time to settle down from crying/screaming.


Sounds like you did a great job and showed so much patience. I hope her parents appreciated how you handled the situation. [name_f]My[/name_f] boys just turned 4 and I can confirm it is definitely the whiniest age thus far. :grimacing:
They have such big emotions at this age. I do my best to stay come and try to let them work it out as long as it’s not some dangerous situation. As hard as it is to ignore the fit-throwing I find that every time I give into it it only makes things worse.
I think you were right to wait until she calmed down to give her what she wanted.
It’s obviously a different situation at church or anywhere in public where you can’t just ignore bad behavior. At home I try to calmly ask if they would like some alone time and tell them they can go to their room and come out when they’ve calmed down (this is if they are being deliberately disobedient or talking back, not just having an emotional moment).


Oh, ain’t that the truth! I actually babysat both this little girl and her sister regularly when they were a bit younger, and it was so much simpler!

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I think you handled it very well.

With my oldest I was very lucky, he hardly had any tantrums. [name_f]My[/name_f] second son, however, is an expert at throwing tantrums, and they include screaming, throwing himself on the ground, kicking and sometimes hitting his head on the floor. It looks awful, and sometimes I have a hard time staying calm myself. I’m getting better at it though. This might sound bad, but you do get used to it, even though it’s never easy to see your child this upset.
We try to offer our children a safe space whenever they’re upset. We sit close to them to let them know we’re there for them if they need us, and stay calm, but trying to quiet the child down at this point usually doesn’t work; neither does talking to them until they’ve calmed down a bit. In the mean time we try to figure out what is causing the tantrum: are they tired, hungry etc.
All of this is of course much easier to do when you’re at home. Having a toddler throw a tantrum in the grocery store or on the street is much “worse” in the sense that you can’t always give them the time and space they need, they could be disrupting other people, someone wants to give you advice because they know better, people are staring…

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You handled it wonderfully!

I work with children (typically 15-30 months, but I was with 2.5-5 years before this age group as well), and in my experience, a tantrum is typically out of frustration and not quite having the self-regulation skills or words to label and handle their feelings yet.

We refer to them as “big feelings” that are hard for young children to work through. We try to empathize with and label the feelings for the child, such as “Oh, I see you’re frustrated!” or “I hear you, you sound angry!”. Providing those words can help them identify the feelings as they get older, and make it easier for them to cope.

In this case, something like “It makes me frustrated too when I forget my purse. It makes me feel upset” can help as then the child is hearing that you understand how they’re feeling (this works best with older children, if they’re younger, a simple “I see you’re frustrated! [name_m]Can[/name_m] I help?” would work).

Another thing we do is redirection - something like “We can’t go get your purse right now, but why don’t we find something to do while we wait to go get it?” can sometimes help as well, providing the child with a choice that’s their own (choosing the activity) gives them a bit of control when they’re feeling like they have no control over the situation.

You can also try to do belly breathing with them (encouraging them to take deep breaths) and/or try some mindfulness tips. [name_f]Sesame[/name_f] [name_f]Street[/name_f] has a great meditation and mindfulness series for kids that I recommend watching for future reference! We used it at my work with our preschoolers when we noticed they were all having a rough day, and it really helped a lot of them! They liked being able to see/hear someone they related to, like [name_m]Elmo[/name_m], having a rough day as well, and wanted to copy how he was calming himself down.


I definitely feel like things are so different when it’s your own kid.

I used to be on leadership for childrens ministry at the church I was attending before kids. Maybe before a next time happens I would see what the protocol and expectations are from the one you were assisting or the childrens director for how to go about handling such situations in the future.

Now with my own I can tell you I am the type of mom that I would be angry to hear that my child was having any sort of tantrum in kids church without my being alerted to it…. Let alone one that didn’t quickly die down.

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I think you did great! With situations where it is not your own kid is always a little different, it depends on the relationship you have with the child and the family.

Just some general thoughts:
Regardless of your feelings towards spankings, physical punishments are never appropriate with someone with someone else’s child. So you did good there!

I do think in a church setting if a kids throwing a prolonged tantrum (more than a minute or 2) I would call for the parents. As usually you are
just volunteers and not trained for childcare and after working in the public schools for sometime I personally am terrified of any confrontations where I have no legal standing or grounds when it comes to dealing with other people’s children. (We had some pretty traumatizing events at our schools with parents)

As for dealing with tantrums for me it helps to recognize the reason behind the tantrum and knowing the kids.

My oldest doesn’t really throw tantrums too much unless she’s overly stimulated/ tired and just needs a break So when she does that I look for anyway to just give her a little break (not always possible but we try)

My youngest on the other hand is a tantrum thrower. She throws a tantrum at the drop of the hat, so with her it depends on the situation and reason behind it. Right now most of her tantrums are thrown when we block her from doing something she wants to do. So in these situations I usually just walk away as she throws the tantrum (while remaining near by and keep her in sight). She’s only 1 right now so you can’t reason with her (though I do feel it’s good for them, even if they don’t understand, yet to explain the reasoning behind your decision) and we originally tried distraction or supporting her through the tantrum (which worked for our first) but for her just makes it longer and worse as she then continued to ask/ argue for whatever she’s wanting. She’s very one track minded and very independent, so we discovered she just needs time to accept that whatever it is she wants isn’t going to happen and when she’s done she’s usually ready for a cuddle and we move on with the rest of our day.


Not a parent, but I’ve worked as a special education paraeducator in elementary school & therapeutic day school settings. Some things I’ve learned:

Minimize talking. Give them time to process what you’re saying. Try to be clear & concise with your words. Use the same phrasing when you repeat yourself - being consistent with how you handle the tantrum helps them know what to expect. Being consistent helps them to learn to recognize that throwing a tantrum does not get them what they want.

When the kid wants something they can’t have, the phrase “that’s not a choice” is often more effective than saying “no you can’t”. Another great phrase is “first ____ then _____” ie “First clean up, then snack”

Try as much as possible to not let the tantrum lead to them getting what they want. [name_u]Or[/name_u] at least not lead directly to what they want. If the tantrum is effective, it reinforces that behavior.

Don’t be afraid to wait them out. Stop engaging verbally & just wait. [name_m]Even[/name_m] looking away can help (not turning away, just not looking at them directly) because it reduces how much attention you’re giving their tantrum.


I worked in special needs as well! I fully support/second the ‘first——then——‘ statements, it’s amazing what difference wording makes.

Also I try to avoid saying ‘no’ when possible. which may sound weird but often when we say ‘no’ we mean ‘not now’ So when my toddler demands a snack/activity/toy etc. that she can’t have/do usually I say ‘yes you can have—— when we———‘ and just hearing a yes deters a lot of tantrums for us.