The Breakdown Of A Temper-Tantrum


“No I won’t say sorry!” “You pick it up!” “I don’t even care!” “Not listening!” (with hands over ears, of course) Have any of these choice phrases ever fallen from your little one’s mouth? Temper-Tantrums can be brutal. I’ve had one too many conversations with moms at the park to think I’m the only one who has kids that occasionally thrown down a temper-tantrum like it’s a glove for a duel.

Engage Or Redirect

The first thought after hearing one of these tantrum starters is, do I engage or redirect? This is a tough one. Especially for parents who walk in on an outraged toddler not knowing the full situation. I’m currently staying at home with my kiddos so I usually know exactly what brought on the war, but I remember well those working days. Don’t let anyone lie to you and say working outside the home is a way to escape motherhood. It’s not. I used to have days where I would come home from a 10-hour shift to find the sitter and my little guy totally fine and happy. Then she’d leave. I would try and navigate towards the kitchen to start dinner and he would start to whine, want me to hold him, or be upset that I’m not turning on the tv for him. Then the “fit” would start.

The Game Plan

It’s so hard to figure out your game plan when you don’t know how your child’s day was. Did he sleep? How much did he eat? Maybe he had too much sugar? Did he have to share with a kid at preschool and have trouble with it? Does he just miss me?

A temper-tantrum has so much more to do with the back story than how your child is acting out. Figure out what is going on inside that crazy kid’s head!

On Mother’s Day I found myself in a real pickle. My husband and I came home early from our leadership retreat and were so happy to be with our kids. Not only was it Mother’s Day, but it was my son’s 4th birthday. I woke up in a great mood, ready to dote on him and celebrate being a mom to my greats kids.

That’s not how yesterday went down. Not even close.

The day started with us getting ready to go to brunch. Thad told our now 4 year old that it was his birthday AND Mother’s Day. (mistake #1) The kid was not so happy about sharing his special day with me. We went to brunch and Sam wanted to order a red Gatorade to go with his muffin. That’s not something we do, but hey it was a double special day so we agreed (mistake #2). Right away Sam started to pick little fights. He barely touched his food but drank over half the Gatorade.

On the way home he was being mean to his big brother, and when asked to stop he began the list of above mentioned phrases that typically mean he’s throwin’ down the glove. This was especially awesome (sarcasm) as it amounted to me taking the oldest on a store run for fruit while Thad stayed in the car with the younger two. By the time I got back in the car Sam was livid. He was extremely mad he didn’t get to go with me, but was he ready to say sorry to his brother? Nope.

He calmed down by the time we got home thanks to some prayer and talking to him about his birthday plans.

Then the evening came. My wonderful mother-in-law (no sarcasm- she really is wonderful) decided to make Sam his own cake when we went over to her house for a Mother’s Day dinner. He ended up being served 2 huge slices of cake (mistake #3) and having soda (something else we don’t do). By the time we got the kids home and into bedtime routine there was an anger in this kid like you wouldn’t believe. I don’t even know what started it honestly. It took Thad and I 90 minutes to get the kid calmed down and in bed.

Angry to happy in a matter of minutes
Angry to happy in a matter of minutes.

I did some serious reflection last night. I thought about his day and what brought on this “hulk” side of him. Thad and I were able to narrow it down to three main reasons. The red dye in his drink earlier is something his body isn’t familiar with. The extra sugar right before bed would have made anyone a bit hyped up, let alone a four year-old. Plus Sam felt an unfairness in general over the day. Now whether you can relate with these things or not, the process is still the same.

The Breakdown

Here’s a simple way to get to the root of the tantrum.


  • what your child’s day was like before the tantrum.
  •  what helped him or her calm down.
  •  how you handled it as a parent.

I am well aware that once I’ve spoken something, it needs to happen. I have to follow through. When I say, “Say sorry to your brother or you will have a timeout,” then that’s exactly what needs to happen. In the same way, if I offer a reward for a specific behavior, then I need to be able to follow through with that reward. Pay attention to your tone as well. While I agree your child needs to know you’re serious, they also need to know you love them and are not ashamed of them. Children need to feel safe, even especially at their worst moments.

Freebies For The Parents

I created these free printable pdf’s to get you, and myself, through this. The first one is for littles who don’t have the verbal skills to tell you what’s going on. I provided a sample to give you a feel for what looks like. If you are a working mom, ask whoever is watching your child to fill this out. You’ll be amazed at how helpful this is at 6:30pm when you just got home from work and need to know how your child is doing.

The third form is for an older child who can tell you how he/she feels. This is especially helpful to start the conversation with your child. As time goes on he or she won’t need the form and will be able to tell you clearly how their day went and even identify for themselves why they are crabby. My almost 8 year old will sometimes say, “Mom, I feel like I didn’t have enough protein today. Can you get me some chicken or something?” He’s starting to pay attention to his body and see what he needs without freaking out and throwin’ down that glove.

For Littles

My Day.pdf

My Day sample

For Older Kids

My Day Older Child Version

The “Whys and Whats”

Breaking down the whys and whats of your child’s situation will dramatically change the tantrum experience.

Remember, most of the time or all the time (depending on the age of your child), they don’t know why they are acting like this. It is our job as parents to help them understand their feelings; what they can do about things not going as planned and aid them through it. Also, remember that it is completely appropriate to discipline a child if they are acting out. I know it’s hard, but it is vital to them that they see what is okay and what is not okay. You are setting the moral standard in your home. Think about that.

Don’t give up when your child wages war over their crust not being cut off the sandwich. Don’t give in to anger yourself when your kindergartner uses a four letter word to tell you what he thinks of you turning off the tv for dinner time. Use words to explain yourself just like you want your child to respond. Giving in to anger is a cop-out. It’s the easy way out. Staying calm and collected is the hard part.

I know you really want to coast through the grocery store with one of those kids who will listen to you. Even one who will walk nicely beside the cart! Know that those kids have worked closely with their parents to understand big concepts like it’s okay to not get your way, or that not every day ends in a reward. Sometimes you’re just expected to be nice and polite (I know, mind blown). Parenthood is a process. You did not receive the worst kids on the planet, even though it feels that way sometimes. You are not the worst parent in the world. No one else thinks that of you either.

Be encouraged. Tackle this tantrum thing head on! I believe in you.❤️

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6 thoughts on “The Breakdown Of A Temper-Tantrum”

  1. Such truthful sharing and good advice. It’s hard to see them so out of control. Thankfully we can guide them to maturity in their emotions.

  2. I love your insight and your honesty. I remember one day when I put myself in time-out, just to collect my sleep-deprived emotions. On other days, I knew my kids needed those resisted naps so much that we “went for a drive.” After my two nodded off in the back seat, I just listened to the radio for some adult time. Being a stay at home mom can be tough. It takes time to think through how to handle tantrums and other parenting issues. Thank you for adding some useful tools to our daily toolboxes.
    – Mom

    1. sweetestlemonade

      Ahh yes, the radio and podcasts definitely count as adult time 🙂 Thank you for your insights too!

    1. sweetestlemonade

      Thanks Blaire, it means a lot to me that you took the time to read this. I know you have your hands full!

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