Managing child behaviour

My Child Throws a Tantrum When He Does Not Get What He Wants

Child throwing a tantrum

Readers Question:

“My three year old child is cross and angry. He bites and kicks his brother when he does not get what he wants.  He shouts and screams.  I am scared that he will grow up to be one of those awful kids.  What can I do?”


Rest assured it is perfectly normal for three year old’s to be cross and angry. Your child is fully expressing his frustrations, throwing tantrums kicking and biting his brother.   He has little or no control over his emotions yet.  He is only three years old. Controlling his emotions is something he has to learn. Your child is lucky he can be his true self, He can be at his ‘most awful’, expressing himself in the only way he knows how and you still love him.

Have a “no hitting” rule

Having a “no hitting” rule in your house sets out the boundaries for your children. Everybody is clear what the “no hitting” rule is. Hitting is not acceptable behaviour. You need to keep the rule, ensuring his brother is not hurt.

Teach your child to self soothe

child crying

Staying calm, talking soothingly, acknowledging his frustrations and his feelings (active listening), stroking him gently on your lap will help him regain control over his emotions. Its a scary place for him.

He will soon realise that he is accepted and loved exactly as he is. He is safe and loved in his world.  The world does not fall down around him when he screams and shouts. You love him when he is good and bad.

Teach your child the skill of patience

He needs help to build up the skills to deal with his very strong emotions at this time. He does not understand that his brother has rights too. All he knows is he wants whatever his brother has right now. By constantly explaining to him that he has to wait his turn until his brother is finished using what he wants.  He needs help to connect his thinking brain and his ‘I want it now brain’ and to understand his brother has rights too. Gradually with your help he will learn to self soothe, to control his emotions.  All he knows is that he  wants it right now and his brother is in his way.  He is frustrated, cross and angry.   You keeping the “no hitting” rule, supporting him through his frustration and the practice for him of having to wait his turn will help him learn to manage his strong emotions. Use other situations where he has to wait a small amount of time for what he wants and gradually increase his waiting time. He will be able to be patient for longer.

Long-term  he will  learn to control his very strong emotions with your help.  You are teaching him a life skill and helping him to learn the skills to fit in with the people around him.  He will be better able to cope with frustrations in pre-school and school and it will be easier for him to fit in.

Be the leader in your house

Your child is at the stage of independence and wants to do everything for himself.  He has some skills but can easily get frustrated when things do not work for him.  So patience, soothing, calming and a lot of standing firm with what is acceptable in your house (the house rules) and what is not.  You are the leader in your house.  Leaders get to make unpopular decisions in a household and that is part of being a parent.  You make the decisions of what is best for your household, your family and follow through. Sometimes you are not popular.

Look after yourself


For you as a parent it can be a stressful time you need to take good care of yourself.  This stage of your child’s life puts  pressure on you to keep calm, be firm and reassuring not to over react.  You need to have plenty of support in place.  Look after your health, find time to relax and know that it will pass.  Its a stage your child is going through.

Do you have any other tips to get through the tantrum years? Let us know in the comments below.

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