Temper Tantrums: How to Deal With a Meltdown (page 2)

— NYU Child Study Center
Updated on Apr 21, 2014

How can a tantrum be avoided?

Tantrums are a sign of frustration that a child can't do something comfortably. Know what your child's tolerance level is and try not to push him beyond what he's capable of doing. Tolerance levels vary; he may be able to handle a situation one day and not the next. Try to identify the situations that trigger tantrums and change them.

Remember to reward good behavior: "You were so good today when we had to stand in line at the post office." Think about whether your child may be acting up because he's not getting enough attention; even negative attention is better than none.

Give the child some control over small decisions, so that she can feel she can make a choice. Offer choices such as "Do you want us to read your book before you put your pajamas on or after?"

Give the child a warning before the end of an activity, which gives him a chance to readjust.

After everyone has calmed down and things are back to normal, be sure to share a hug.

If tantrums are more frequent than about once a week and don't lessen as the child grows older, you may want to consider seeking professional advice.

Recommended books

Rimm, Sylvia (1996) Dr. Sylvia Rimm's Smart Parenting: How to Raise a Happy, Achieving Child, Crown Publishing.

Peters, Ruth (1999) It's Never Too Soon To Discipline. St, Martin's Press.

Phelan, Thomas (2003) 1,2,3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12. Parentmagic, Inc.

Phelan, Thomas (1998) Surviving Your Adolescents. Parentmagic, Inc.

Wolf, Anthony (2002) Get Out of My Life, but First Could You Drive Me & Cheryl to the Mall: A Parent's Guide to the New Teenager, Revised and Updated, Farrar, Straus, & Giroux

About the NYU Child Study Center

The New York University Child Study Center is dedicated to increasing the awareness of child and adolescent psychiatric disorders and improving the research necessary to advance the prevention, identification, and treatment of these disorders on a national scale. The Center offers expert psychiatric services for children, adolescents, young adults, and families with emphasis on early diagnosis and intervention. The Center's mission is to bridge the gap between science and practice, integrating the finest research with patient care and state-of-the-art training utilizing the resources of the New York University School of Medicine. The Child Study Center was founded in 1997 and established as the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry within the NYU School of Medicine in 2006. For more information, please call us at (212) 263-6622 or visit us at

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