How to Survive Gnarly Temper Tantrums with your Dignity (mostly) Intact


What do you do when you’re child is in the middle of a gnarly tantrum?

You know the kind where you’re waiting line line at the grocery store and the possibly psycho kid having a gnarly tantrum is infact yours.  You really just needed a quick trip to grab some groceries so you just apologize as you’re paying and hope no one recognizes you again, ever. Oh, yeah and possibly NEVER go to that store again!

This was me last spring and I was done. I was tired and Iit. was. the. last. straw. I grabbed all of the parenting books I had and brought them over to my computer.

What is a Tantrum?

I really like this video because it opens up both how parents can better support a tantruming child AND how we can support ourselves so we don’t “flip our (own) lids”.

SURVIVING a Gnarly Tantrum:

Children have an innate sense of cause and effect starting from an early age.  Example: a nursing baby biting you and then smiling afterward.  In it’s most primitive form it presents itself as boundary testing.  Some boundary testing  behaviors require immediate attention (or removal from the situation) while others are best handled in real life situations and reinforced over time.


The next thing to do if your child is having temper tantrums is to breathe (and maybe pour yourself a glass of wine as you read on). You are not alone and for most kids between the ages of 2-5 can be pretty challenging

Other ideas to try:
  1. Check yourself! IF you need one take a Grown-Up Time out… (modeling this is also a parenting tool)
  2. Pick up a few Parenting Books or take a child development class

Positive Discipline: The First Three Years by Jane Nelsen  

The tagline for this book is “From infant to toddler Laying the foundation for raising a capable confident child”. It discusses the many phases kids go through during this time and offers suggestions on how to make smooth(er) transitions during developmental milestones like developing emotional skills, temperment, potty training, etc.  There is also another book by the same author Positive Discipline for Working Parents which I found equally helpful.

Montessori from the Start by Paula Polk Lillard and Lynn Lillard Jessen

This is a great book! It has more developmental background information AND it includes developmentally appropriate activities for the kids as well as adults. Montessori Education and Positive Parenting Principles are often incorporated together.

The Whole Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegel, MD & Tina Payne Bryson, PH.D.

This is hands-down my favorite parenting book.  I love how this super “smarty-pants” guy (um- he’s literally a neuroscientist) explains relateable experiences and narritaves to help parents process and understand what is going on (inside themselves as parents AND for thier children developmentally).

This book breaks down 12 Parenting Strategies to support whole brain development.   Many parenting professionals utilize Dr. Siegel’s research in thier line of work. For Example; Jane Nelson, the founder of & author of many positive disciplne books often refers to Dr. Siegel’s “flip your lid” model in her books and on her website.

Call a Friend

Someone you can talk to about the behaviors that has children or just vent out some mommy frustration

Parenting Tools Reference Chart

Keep a parenting tools chart handy! I have my 3 Most Effective Parenting Tools, on the fridge for when I need time to take a moment to assess the situation. These are the best in-the-moment tools to use diffuse any temperament in nearly any situation.

Other things to consider before taking action:

  • What is(are) the undesired behavior(s)? (make a list and work on ONE thing at a time)
  • Is your child going through a developmental milestone (pay less attention to age-although that is important and more attention where they’re at with respect to skills/cognitive ability in relation to milestones. If you have multiple children this may make more sense. Some kids follow the recommended ‘norms’ to the T some are further along and some take more time. Be mindful of each child’s respective norms.)
  • What are their triggers (ex:transitioning between activities, sharing, hitting)
  • What is their temperament? (People pleaser, bossy , withdrawn)
  • Discipline techniques that are best used for that age group (For example: Redirection with purpose)

All of these questions give you answers that helps direct your next parenting move.

An extension of Redirection with purpose is having simple developmentally appropriate activities all ready to redirect them to at home (or work if you are fortunate enough to bring your child to work).  IF you have more than one child keep it simple and stick to activities that work well for multi-age groups.  Montessori, Waldorf and Reggio Emilia have great ideas for play based learning for young children. I am happy to post specific activities for multi-age play based learning if there is an interest! Just let me know.

It’s important to remember that parenting is a marathon not a sprint. Sometimes the most challenging parts of the journey bring the most amazing results.

The 3 MOST Effective Parenting Tools and When to Use them!

Positive Parenting Strategies to overcome the 4 most common Parenting Pitfalls

5 Internet Safety Hacks for Parents


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.