Parenting--Toddlers/Infants/Pre-Schoolers/Horrible violent Tantrums, single mother?


Hey. I feel like I am at my wits end. I just don't know what to do. I try so hard. but I feel like a terrible mother. I need help controlling my kids. My son is 4, and my daughter is 5. I am recently divorced in the past year, and ever since my kids have been very hard to handle. They act very spoiled. and throw tantrums over the smallest things. The tantrums include throwing things at me, across the room, hitting, screaming. I don't give in, but the tantrums last for a long time. I feel so helpless, like i'm losing control when they do this. I want to be a good mother, and I don't want to give up, but i'm so frustrated. I just want to scream. Any helpful tips for dealing with these horrible tantrums? I try time outs, and taking things away, but nothing seems to work.


If your children have only recently started with this behaviour then it could be due to the loss they feel after the divorce and hopefully it will settle down with time but more quickly if the issues are discussed - if they can explain how they feel or use words rather than actions to express their feelings.
I know you want to be there for them and there is a time and place for reasoning and talking about their feelings but while a tantrum is happening it is best to let the tantrum run its course.  When they have calmed down and it is 'safe' then always talk about it.  It doesn't have to be for long but they do have to understand that their behaviour has consequences and how it makes you feel? "I feel scared when you throw things, it isn't good to damage property etc) and acknowledge their feelings too (with a board/expression cartoons or feelings meter, I have one at the website Anger is always a cover for some other feeling so try to understand how they felt, were they frustrated, jealous, tired, hungry.  Don't ask why did you do that, rather ask 'what were you feeling?'

You can deal with these angry outbursts in many ways. I would suggest trying one option for up to seven days to see which one works.

The first option is if they are throwing things at you, say clearly "this is not safe and I will be in the room/kitchen then ignore them and walk away. If they come after you say to them "when you are calm we can talk", and keep ignoring them.  When they do calm down you can sit with them give them a cuddle and say "this is better, now we can talk'.  You should see the length of the tantrums lowering.  Walking away is not giving in - if you clearly state what you would like to see happen. 'If you are calm, I will talk to you'

If the tantrum or anger is between the children and one is being targeted remove the child that is the target of the frustration from the situation.  You can say to the other child, "we are leaving the room now because it is not safe and this behaviour is not nice/acceptable/good".   Then again ignore and repeat 'this is not safe, when you are calm we can come back or talk to you".

The other option if they aren't too strong is to cuddle/hug the tantrum thrower. Just sit with them and hold them, calmly say 'it makes me sad when you are angry calm down take a breath, breath slowly and get them to copy you'.  
Another option if they aren't too strong and you can pick them up is to take the tantrum thrower to his/her bedroom and tell them they can stay in their until they are calm.  'This is their 'safe' place.  If possible this should be their safe place where they can be allowed to kick hit punch or throw things in there and when they are calm and they want to talk about it then they can come out of the room or you can go in.  This has worked very effectively with my child and eventually he would take himself there and draw or do an activity that resolved his feelings, around 5 or 6 years old.

The other is humour or distraction.  You could say here is your fluffy pillow to punch. This is a last resort as some kids personalities don't see the joke or may make the problem worse if they think they are being ridiculed.  

If you do notice their tantrums getting less, praise them for it at the end of the day.  'I'm proud of how you handled this today, you showed great self-control, well done."

Please follow up if you need to.  Kind regards, Eleanor  


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Eleanor Formaggio


I can answer questions where practical advice is sought in relation to behaviour issues of 2-10 year olds. I specifically look at the influence of personality in a child's behaviour and tailor advice to suit the individual child and parent. This is useful since not all children are the same. I can suggest techniques for tantrums, child aggression and sibling rivalry and adapting to change.


I am a counsellor and child behaviour consultant based in Sydney, Australia and mum to three boys ages 12,10 and 6. I have been involved in setting up and facilitating community support groups for new mothers and run parenting workshops so parents can better understand their children's behaviour. I have spent alot of time observing personality differences in children and understanding how these differences can be used to make parenting easier. I developed the Early Childhood Personality Rating Scale for identifying child personality types in children as young as two. I am the founder of Parent with Potential and developed the Prechooler Personality Kit and READ personality system for primary aged children. More info can be found at

Book: In this Present Moment: Quality Time Ideas for busy parents.

I have a Bachelors Degree in Applied Social Science (Counselling).

Past/Present Clients
Parents of 2-8 year olds. Mothers with Postnatal Depression or anxiety attending a support group or seeking individual counselling or advice in relation to their child's behaviour.

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