How to deal with tantrums

Stay calm and try not to get angry. If you do, the tantrum will only get worse. Don’t scream or raise your voice, but speak in a calm and clear manner.

Option 1: Ignore your child

If your child is having a tantrum, you can choose to ignore them for a while. That means you shouldn’t respond to what they’re saying or doing at all. When ignoring your child, you should do the following:

  1. Do not react to what your child is doing or saying.
  2. Don’t give in while your child is having a tantrum. Keep ignoring them. It can help to move away and do something else for a bit.
  3. When the tantrum is over, immediately give your child positive attention. You could say, for example, that you’re happy they have calmed down. Or you can hug them and play together for a bit.


Don’t give up! When you ignore your child, at first the tantrum can get worse. Your child needs to learn that their behaviour really won’t earn them any attention. Only then will the behaviour become less frequent.

Option 2: Time-out

Ignoring your child may not be the best option in all situations. If your child is saying nasty things, breaking stuff or hurting others, it’s better to intervene straight away. An idea is to give your child a time-out to take them out of the situation and calm down. It also gives you, as a parent, the time to calm down.

Follow these steps for a time-out:

  1. Give your child a last warning.
  2. Briefly explain why you’re giving them a time-out.
  3. Tell your child how long the time-out will be (a guideline is one minute per year of age, so two minutes for a two-year-old).
  4. Tell your child the time-out is over when time is up or when they’ve calmed down.
  5. Try to end the time-out on a positive note.

Tips for dealing with tantrums:

Tip 1: Stay calm and don’t get angry. Your child is still learning how to express their feelings.

Tip 2: Don’t argue with your child. Chances are the tantrum will only last longer.

Tip 3: Stay strong and don’t give in. If you give in, you reward your child with attention. The risk is that they will have tantrums more often.

In practice, things won’t always be as easy as we’ve explained here. This snippet from ‘The Nanny’ clearly illustrates how difficult it can be not to give up, particularly if you’re using time-outs for the first time. For example, it can be hard to take your child to the time-out spot over and over again while trying to ignore them. It’s important that you don’t give up. Chances are that you will succeed eventually.

Below you will find a description of the video

A mother is preparing dinner. Her daughter is crying and wants to be held. When her mother refuses to hold her, the child has a tantrum. The Nanny explains that if she does hold her, she will reward her for her behaviour. The next time her daughter wants to be held, she will cry and scream again. You can tell the mother is struggling with the idea that she can’t hold her child. The Nanny says she is doing well. She is cooking for the family. She shouldn’t feel guilty because she doesn’t have time for her daughter right now. Then the daughter hits her mother. The mother gives her daughter a last warning, with help from the Nanny. When the daughter hits her again, the mother takes her to the time-out chair. Every time she gets up, the mother takes her back to the chair. The mother admits she’s finding it hard. But she doesn’t give up and she puts her daughter on the chair over and over again. She slowly starts feeling more confident.