10 Signs Your Child is About to Have a Temper Tantrum

Updated: October 11, 2019
Do you know the signs when your child is about to have a temper tantrum? Here's how to predict and stop a temper tantrum before it even happens.
mom and toddler about to have a temper tantrum

Supporting your child through times of temper tantrum is a challenging part of parenthood. It’s a rite of passage that all parents go through, and the most important thing to remember is that your child is simply going through a developmental stage. No matter how frustrated you may feel in response to tantrums, you can be assured that they are a normal part of child development, and your little one is not trying to upset you on purpose. 

More: The 3 Main Differences Between a Sensory Meltdown and a Temper Tantrum

As shared on Healthline: “When your child is throwing a tantrum, you may be tempted to think it’s your fault. It isn’t. Tantrums are a normal part of childhood development, and they don’t occur because you’ve been a bad parent or because you’ve done something wrong.” Fortunately, most temper tantrums are preceded by a list of signals that are telltale signs that your child is about to have a meltdown or temper tantrum.

Constantly dealing with temper tantrums? Pin this for later:

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What can I do to help prevent temper tantrums?

There are several factors that can contribute to a child’s propensity to have a temper tantrum at any given time:

  • The first is hunger. Little ones get “hangry” just like we do. Having snacks on hand and making sure to anticipate the times when your child needs a little extra sustenance can go a long way.
  • The next is fatigue. The more tired your child is, the more she will struggle with communication and reasoning through difficulties and challenges.
  • Another factor is being in a place of temptation. Walking your child through the candy aisle at the grocery store when she is hungry and when you have no intention of allowing her to have candy is a recipe for creating a tantrum for sure.

What are the signs I can look for that often signal a temper tantrum may be brewing?

1. Communication struggles

Children often melt down because they do not yet have the ability to make themselves heard and understood in a clear way. If you find your little one struggling to make her point or if she is having difficulty asking for what she wants, a temper tantrum might be on the way unless you can support her through this challenge.

2. Physical signs of frustration

If a child begins banging on a toy, throwing an object, or throwing her hands up in frustration, a meltdown could be on the horizon. When exasperation starts moving into the body, your toddler may be hitting her limit.

3. Yelling

If your little one begins raising her voice, it can be a sign that she is having difficulties. When her voice is elevated in a way that is less than gleeful, you can watch to see if an intervention is necessary to prevent a temper tantrum.

4. Hitting or kicking a friend

Hitting, kicking, and even biting can be common during toddlerhood as children learn to navigate interacting with other little ones who also are limited in their ability to communicate. This kind of behavior is a sign that your child is having trouble getting what she wants or stopping a certain behavior in a friend so she is feeling pushed past her limit.

5. A shortening attention span

Little ones should never be expected to have long attention spans, but when a child is clearly losing focus during a time when she is being told to do otherwise, her frustration will certainly grow. Using distraction or helping your child find an activity that does interest her can help to prevent an impending meltdown.

6. Feeling out of control

Just as adults are comforted by having control over situations, so are children. If a little one is in a situation where she is not getting to experience choice, this can push her emotions to a place where they are hard to manage which can also lead to a temper tantrum.

7. Holding her breath or tensing her body

If you see your little one holding her breath or tensing her body, this can be a sign that she is dealing with emotions that are feeling too big. This is certainly a signal that comfort and a change of scenery or space may be needed.

8. Crying

It is hard for all of us to deal with feelings of sadness. If you notice your little one feeling blue, she may need some assistance to guide her through a hard to manage emotion.

9. Repeated requests or questions

Even if what your child is asking for sounds ludicrous to you, you can count on the fact that she feels like her needs are being unmet. The more difficult it is for her to communicate what she needs, the more likely there will be bigger emotions and frustrations around the corner.

10. A changed routine

Young children thrive on routine and predictability. When a routine is drastically changed, your little one may have a hard time managing her feelings about it. Making sure your child feels connected with you or a trusted adult during these times can help to alleviate big emotions that can build quickly.

Do you know how to help your child having a meltdown or temper tantrum? Here are 8 Calming Phrases to Say to Your Child Having a Meltdown