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When Talking it Through is Not Yet Possible: Handling Tantrums of Children Aged 2+

You’re right. Parenting does not have to be so hard, so let’s just give what our kids want when they cry for or demand some little toy or chocolates, right? For all it’s worth, just give it- that will be a golden. five-minute pause- ten, if we’re lucky.

Sorry, let’s do better! Simply put- would you give a pretty, sparkly knife when your child screams for it? Definitely won’t.

Children aged 2+

They have little hands and feet, and a big heart; all the emotions are new, and they don’t have that skill managing them. They smile when they are happy, and they feel like throwing the nearest object when they get upset. They express in physical ways- yelling, biting, pushing, throwing objects, pulling hair, etc.

But here’s the secret- they WANT to be the ‘good boy’ or ‘good girl’ that you always say so sweetly. They want to please the adults around them and would do anything to get that attention. They LOVE physical affection too as much as your praises.

They are in their second year of life and have so much to discover. They are growing less dependent, bursting with immeasurable energy, and they are just getting familiar with the limits or rules you set as time goes by. They are still learning to remember these limits so they will really do things despite several reminders.

They have a better understanding of cause-and-effect and the relationship between events- pressing the buttons on the curious little car keys and beep, beep!, throwing a toy in the toilet bowl and splash! And because they have stronger grasps, they can move huge things and take bigger leaps; they explore their surroundings more independently. They do not have that sense of danger yet and are impulsive to use newly learned skills inappropriately like doing something dangerous or touching some unsafe things.

They will disagree with you too. You say, ‘No jumping!’ And they’ll do the exact opposite! They will test and try you. Trust me- your reaction or the words you say is also one of the reasons why they do certain behaviors. At this critical stage where your child looks at you for reaction, make sure that you mean what you say and immediately implement it- Stop is stop and No is really a no- not ‘Stop 5 minutes later’, or two more ‘last-one’s’.

Children and Tantrums

Young children may do tantrums when they can’t get what they want or in expression of their frustration. They are encountering these feelings for the first times. They do not have enough words to express in a way that is acceptable and understandable to us adults. That’s exactly our role- to provide them alternative ways to ‘react’. Just make sure all needs are met- they are fed, diapers changed, are not overly stimulated or too sleepy, and are not feeling sick.

When children act out, they never mean to manipulate you. You need to remember that how you respond teaches them that their behavior will elicit that reaction. As young as 6- even 4 months, for example, when your baby throws his bottle, and you get it, you are establishing a ‘game’; he keeps throwing and you keep getting it even if you want him to stop.

Children need to be understood, more than trained. So does their behavior. We need to know why your child is acting the way he is, then we can be more understanding when setting the limits and responding.

It’s Not Always a ‘No’

There are times when just out of curiosity, your child will cry about something. Let him or her touch it or feel it and then divert the attention. Do the one-finger rule: for example, your child sees a breakable ‘toy’ or cute-looking figurine, simply model (pointer finger up) and say, ‘Touch with one finger’.

So When Your Child Goes into Tantrum…

Acknowledge and Label

Expressing emotions are healthy for your little one. He may scream, stomp his feet, even slap you, bite or throw something or pull his hair.

Let’s look at this example. Your child suddenly spots a shining object with an odd shape- a battery. You take it away and he screams.

Just say, “Are you upset?

Aw, J is getting upset, I know…

Mama is getting upset too that you can’t get the battery.

Battery is not a toy, I’m sorry.”

Trust that your child understands more than what he can say. These small steps of acknowledging what your child feels can help him express and be clear about what he’s feeling in the near future.

Restrain, Distract and Divert

We more or less know what our child dislikes, and we can foresee instances where he is likely to act up (example: when a child is close to his sleeping time, he could be irritable or hyper), so let’s be proactive- ease him into the routine and don’t let him indulge anymore into a high-energy activity when you want him to settle soon.

But there are still instances where no matter how prepared we are, we just keep encountering tantrum-inducing circumstances. One perfect example- inside a toy store!

Make it short and simple, “Sorry, we will not buy a toy today. We can touch it.”

If your baby cries some more, restrain him by carrying him out, and divert his attention, “Look at that (something new)!” Or you can simply let him have the toy until you’re close to the exit, then hand it to a staff while you’re on to diverting his attention.

Why These Words Won’t Work

“I’m getting upset, stop it! Stop crying now! Many people are looking at us!”

“I’m gonna count now! If you don’t stop at 3, I will ..!”

“You’re getting on my nerves now; Mommy will go away if you don’t stop!”

“The guard will get you, go cry some more!”

“Why are you even crying? Why did you do that? I told you MANY times to stop!”

Words mentioned above are too heavy and will not curb your child’s behavior; they only express what you are feeling and are showing your child that it is NOT okay to express theirs. Threatening is not an option- it will only induce unnecessary fear or could be a way to cause your child to completely stop expressing his emotion. When they are crying, we do NOT have to talk and demand them to stop. Remember to acknowledge their feelings and simply take them away from the situation. We offer an acceptable way to express, or limited, realistic choices when our child can understand more words.

Children this age normally cannot answer Why-questions and they do not always understand their motives for their behavior.

More than Words

Episodes like these can be so frustrating but do save that exasperated sigh or rolling of eyes, or banging the cabinets. Children read through our emotions, and they will think those are acceptable too. Act and believe that you are in-charge.

Hitting is More Damaging than You Think

A lot of times you find yourself saying you can’t help it and you hit your screaming child suddenly. Hitting or using force may immediately stop the tantrums, but you are only showing your child that it IS okay to use force to make someone stop. It is NOT acceptable. We want them to manage their emotions but we need to manage ours first.

If you find yourself promising a lot of times to not hit again but still do it, please feel free to contact us.

Our Present Parenting Tips:

  • Children aged 2+ are impulsive, are more independently exploring, and express their emotions in physical ways.

  • They don’t remember the rules or limits you set so they may keep doing them despite your reminders.

  • Praising, with physical affection, the specific good behavior helps your child sustain that behavior.

  • Tantrums are ways children express their frustration, and they are experiencing these emotions the first time. They cannot answer ‘Why?’, or ‘What do you want?’ yet, so offer them visible choices.

  • Because our child has limited words and understanding, and we cannot talk it through during tantrums, acknowledge your child’s emotion, label it, then divert or distract.

  • As adults, we need to manage our emotions. Hitting is NOT acceptable nor is threatening.

  • We need to model acceptable behavior because children copy ours- it is ALWAYS good and right in their eyes and they will do it the rest of their lifetime.

A lot of times you find yourself saying you can’t help it and you hit your screaming child suddenly. Hitting or using force may immediately stop the tantrums but you are only showing your child that it IS okay to use force to make someone stop. It is NOT acceptable. We want them to manage their emotions but we need to manage ours first.

If you find yourself promising a lot of times not to hit again but still do it, please feel free to contact us. (

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All contents in this Website are for informational purposes only and should not be considered a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation.  Always seek the direct advice of professionals in connection with any questions or issues you may have about serious, life-threatening or trauma-related matters regarding yourself, your child, or family life. Pictures in the website are models, and do not depict the situation mentioned in the blogs.

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