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Why Children Have Tantrums And How Best To Respond

Why Children Have Tantrums And How Best To Respond

Preschool-aged children may not have a developed understanding of their own emotions and it can cause a lot of confusion and frustration within them. This is why we see children throwing tantrums. It can come from a place of anger, sadness, overstimulation, or other factors, but the child may not yet have the capability to reason through those emotions. Instead, preschoolers may act out trying to achieve the outcome they seek.

Grey Matter Montessori is Calgary’s choice for child-led preschool learning. Call us to book a virtual or in-person tour and explore whether the Montessori way of learning is right for your child.

What Is A Tantrum?

A tantrum is an outburst of unpleasant emotion from a child. It could be in the form of sadness, such as crying, or anger, such as kicking or yelling. It can also come in the form of refusal to comply, such as when children lay down or stiffen their bodies in an attempt to not be moved. They could also attempt to make themselves ill by holding their breath or vomiting. However they express it, tantrums are a way to get attention from their parents, whether to stop an unpleasant situation or get something they want. The child tries to change what’s happening by getting a reaction from their parents.

Why Do Children Have Tantrums?

Tantrums are often a result of children being unable to understand or express their emotions appropriately. Children may have tantrums for different reasons at different times, but some of the most common reasons are:

  • Irritability related to their physical state. Fatigue, hunger, overstimulation, stress, and even boredom can all cause a child to throw a tantrum. The child may not realize the stressors that are upsetting them and interpret these things as anger or sadness.
  • Strong emotions. Worry, shame, fear, or anger can be overwhelming for a child to process and express, so it manifests in the form of a tantrum.
  • Temperament. Some children are more sensitive to stress or anger and will get upset more easily than other children.

How To Respond

  • Stay calm. This can be hard when you’re already having a bad day and your child throws a tantrum, but expressing anger or yelling will only escalate emotions. Try to keep your voice even and at your regular volume.
  • Acknowledge your child’s feelings. Your child might not even know why they’re throwing a tantrum, and having you calmly ask why they’re angry or acknowledge that something happened that was anger provoking, can lead to a reset of emotions and your child feeling heard.
  • Keep your reactions consistent. It’s sometimes hard to not give into what your child wants for the sake of stopping their tantrum, but when this happens it teaches the child that their tantrums work, even if it’s less than half of the time. It’s enough that your child will keep trying on the chance they can get what they want.

How Grey Matter Montessori: Fostering Confidence and Personal Development

Your child’s temper tantrums can be addressed by consistently acknowledging their feelings in a calm manner. At Grey Matter Montessori we seek to create a positive, encouraging environment where every child feels heard and understood. By preparing the environment to suit the child’s needs, Grey Matter Montessori prioritizes developing your child not only into an intelligent student but also a well-rounded, kinder and happier human being.

Grey Matter Montessori is one of Calgary's best preschool programs based on the Montessori method of child-led learning. If you are looking for a certified child-led program for your preschooler that fosters a sense of confidence and personal responsibility, then call us at 1-587-707-4739 to book a tour of our NW Calgary campus. You can also take a virtual tour of our campus here


Q: How can I stay calm when my child is throwing a tantrum?
A: Know that your child is not trying to embarrass or upset you. Try to understand that something has happened to upset your child enough to trigger a tantrum and try to approach the situation with empathy. It can be difficult, but remember that your child is still developing the tools of communication and they need the people around them to facilitate and model that.

Q: What if my child won’t tell me what’s wrong even when I try to talk to them?
A: Some children can’t communicate well, either because of their age, development, or emotional understanding. Because of this, they may not be able to articulate what’s triggering their tantrum. If the child is verbal and emotionally comprehensive, try talking to them after the tantrum and have them look back, but don’t wait so long they forget. Otherwise, try to pay attention to what situations upset them the most.

Q: How can my child learn to deal with their emotions?
A: At Grey Matter Montessori, child education is holistic, leading your preschooler to an earlier understanding of the world around them and how they function within it. By engaging children mentally and physically, they are given the opportunity to learn at their own pace. As your child develops, they learn the skills to properly understand their own experiences and senses.

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