Screaming kids and temper tantrums

Parentree-editors 2008-08-15 07:24:05

Who amongst us has not dealt with screaming kids & temper tantrums? The question we all have is how to deal with them. Here are some tips.

Stay calm 

Easier said than done!! Most of us seem to be biologically tuned to explode when screaming kids are around., even if we are saints in every other way.  My mother always says  "It takes two hands to clap and make a noise". Its a perfect analogy. If you scream back at your kids things can only become worse.

Kids do not fully understand what they are doing. They may resort to screaming because they believe this will get them the attention they need. Or they may be screaming because they are very frustrated with a situation. Screaming back at them may silence them. This will probably work when they are little. But it reinforces in them that screaming when frustrated is an acceptable choice. When they grow older, they will out-scream you. So stay calm and teach them that screaming does not help.

Of course, everyone loses their cool some of the time. But a majority of the time we should manage to keep our cool and do the following.

Calm the child down

Start by trying to calm the child down. Here are some tips on how to calm a child down. One way to do it is to tell them -  "Calm down. I can't understand what you want when you are screaming". This is accompanied by stroking the child's chest or arm or back depending on what you think will calm them down best.  The screaming is often because the child needs attention and when they hear this, they realise they have our attention.

Often the screaming continues for a few more times before they invariably calm down. This is a moment of vulnerability for parents. We may have stayed calm and then moved to next step of calming the kid. But if the kid does not immediately calm down, sometimes we give in to what they want just to shut them up. When we do this, it teaches the child that persistent screaming wins the day. Keep talking to the child and calm them down. Often moving them away from the scene helps.

Listen to them

Once the child calm's down, don't try to talk to them or distract them. Listen to them. Let them talk. A technique called "active listening" is very useful in this case. It is often taught in management training sessions but parents would greatly benefit from it also. What active listening means is that you listen attentively to the child and repeat the same back to them. For example, my younger one may say "My brother is not giving me the cycle" and our response is "Is your brother not giving you the cycle, baby?". Hearing they words repeated back to them tells them you are listening and also soothes them.

By the way, don't forget to thank them for calming down. Listening to them attentively tells them that they can get your attention through quieter methods rather than screaming.

Once you have brought them to the state where a conversation can happen, then start using other methods to get the situation resolved. This may include distractions, incentives (healthy and beneficial ones), and logical arguments. Sometimes the screaming may recur again. Deal with it the same way.

Public screaming

Often children pick a public area to resort to screaming and throwing a tantrum. Don't worry about the stares around you and don't get embarrassed. Deal with the problem in the same way as you would at home. You may want to move them aside to a less public location. This is not to reduce pubic attention but rather to help the child concentrate on your soothing voice.

Sometimes when family members are around, they will counsel you to concede the child's demand. Politely explain to them why you would like to deal with it your way - "If I give him a chocolate bar now, he will not eat his lunch. I would rather give him the chocolate bar after lunch". 

Do you have tips you would like to share about screaming kids? Write an entry in your Parentree journal.


2012-05-08 00:17:06


Nice and Useful Article . ThanK you.

2009-03-15 16:06:54


Hi, This is a really useful article. Lately my 'just turned' 3 yr daughter has taken to crying / screaming for everything..the best part is she vocalizes her feelings but in that loud 'screaming voice which tends to irritate us quite a bit. Like BK, iam also trying to stay calm and let her finish her outburst and then approach her.

2009-03-11 12:50:43


Hi, My son is almost 2.5. He has very fierce tantrums. Lately I've started wording his feelings for him and this seems to work wonders. Eg., he goes to a friend's home and he hates it when I pick him up to return home. He spits at me, kicks me etc. I lift him up and I ask him (in mother tongue) - "Are you upset that you cannot play for longer?". He says yes in the midst of all the crying and shouting. I tell him - "I will bring you here again tomorrow. Your friend is going to lock the door and go out now. Shall we go home and read a book?". Though I've said the second set of sentences a 100 times, it has never worked too well by itself. It is the first sentence that really helps - it gives words to his feelings, he's able to recognize his mood and thats half the journey covered :). Hope this helps! Aparna

2009-03-05 18:06:04


Hi, I agree with most of the points mentioned in this article. But we give in to the tension (especially when you have 2 kids and both are fighting for something :-)). I would like to suggest one more point here. Here it goes: If your kid is screaming and adamant about a particular thing like choco or toy, just divert them to something else by saying "where is the other ball?" or something like "I am trying to find something (like mobile/purse). Can u pls. search for me?". This will divert their mind from the scene and situation where they were few minutes before. I have tried it and it works fairly (around 70% success rate).

2008-12-10 18:30:45


i very much agree with this article. I used to scream back to my daughter. But over the last 3-4 months, i have stopped doing that, since she will also behave in the same way. She understands much better now, when i speak to her calmly.


All Rights Reserved Copyright © 2008-2022 Parentree