Keep your cool with a bad-tempered child.

How to Deal With a Bad Tempered Child

by Alice Drinkworth

Every child has a unique personality -- and some kids are just naturally crankier than others. If you're greeted in the morning with a frowny little face and a temper tantrum waiting to happen, you can blame your spouse’s side of the family -- and then put your best foot forward. You can't change your child's personality, but you can teach him that temper tantrums will get him nowhere -- and turn some of those frowns upside down.

Figure out what's bothering your child -- and address it -- before a tantrum begins. Temper tantrums are a normal part of childhood, particularly between the ages of 1 and 3. Most of the time, kids have them to vent their frustrations with the world. Often, a child is simply tired, hungry, thirsty, or wants something he can't get for himself -- but can't communicate this. Small children are dependent on others for all their basic needs -- and that can get annoying to an independent soul.

Use an upbeat voice when talking to your child. Children often reflect the environment around them. If you tend to snap back at your cantankerous tot, the cycle continues. He may cheer a bit hearing a sunny tone in your voice.

Stay calm. A small child is going to learn to control his anger from your modeling. If you lose it when you spill the milk, so will he. That said, even the best of us lose our tempers from time to time -- so don't beat yourself up if you do.

Give your child a time-out when he starts to act out. As soon as a tantrum starts, sit him in a designated spot, like a kitchen chair or bottom step, and tell him that he's getting a time-out to calm down. This removes the child from the aggravation. How long he spends in the time-out should correspond to his age -- about one minute per year of age. So if he's 3, he should sit for three minutes. If refuses to stay put, just keep putting him back in the time-out until he realizes that you're not going to let him win. Remain calm, but be firm.

Teach your bad-tempered child to use outlets for his anger to avoid taking it out on others. While anger is a normal emotion, showing it by hurting others is not. If you see your child becoming aggravated or frustrated with a sibling or other child, teach him to turn away from the source of aggravation and do another activity that he enjoys instead of fighting.

Act like a grown-up. We all lose it sometimes. If you say something you later regret in the heat of anger, apologize to your child. Seeing a role model admit failure is a powerful thing.

Items you will need

  • Patience


  • Children who witness anger in the home learn to express more anger. If you resolve conflicts calmly and rationally, your child will learn to do the same -- eventually.

About the Author

Alice Drinkworth has been a writer and journalist since 1995. She has written for community newspapers, college magazines and Drinkworth earned a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Wisconsin and won a media award for her in-depth coverage of local politics. She is also a certified master gardener.

Photo Credits

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