Controlling tantrums after divorce

My son is two and a half years old and has always been well-behaved. What can I do to keep him under control when he throws the occasional temper tantrum? My husband and I recently separated.

Tantrums are your son’s way of expressing frustration at an age when he doesn’t have the language skills to express what he is thinking and feeling. No one’s universe can be frustration-free. The marital separation and any conflict that preceded it also may contribute to your son’s sense of frustration.

Here are some strategies to use to handle tantrums:

    • Avoid situations in which you know tantrumsmay be a problem (for example, going grocery shopping when you know he has missed his nap or is hungry).
    • Be consistent in your approach to discipline, both between the two of you and across all situations. In light of your marital separation, it is even more important that you take a coherent approach to parenting. Children learn quickly if mom is the one who caves in to a crying jag, for example.
    • Don’t allow him to learn that if he cries or thrashes long enough, he ultimately gets his way. Try to use words to reflect what he may be feeling since he can’t necessarily verbalize for himself (“Gee, you sure are upset right now”).
    • Never use physical punishment. It doesn’t work and just teaches kids that hitting is what big people do to small ones. Try time outs in his room for no more than 2 minutes if he needs to get himself in control again.

Bear in mind that you can’t prevent every tantrum, so don’t take them as personal defeats. Think of them as “teachable moments” and, above all else, keep your cool.

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