Our 15 month old daughter has now started to throw the occasional tantrum. Usually it's the result of stopping her from doing something she shouldn't do (just saying "No" sternly). In that case she might cry but we try to distract and that usually works.

However, there's a second form of tantrum where she's in a place she shouldn't be (near the oven when it's about to be opened for instance) and when you go to pick her up she arches her back, screams, and if you don't catch her, she could fall right back on the floor. She's startled me a few times now doing it.

Distraction calms her down quickly, but I want to know how to prevent her from doing it. It's actually dangerous.

asked 16 Dec '09, 02:04

Scott's gravatar image

Scott ♦♦
accept rate: 10%

edited 09 Jan '10, 16:50

mkcoehoorn's gravatar image


Thank you for asking this question. My son is just coming on 15 months and the tantrums have just begun to escalate- it's always when I stop him from doing something he's not supposed to, is unsafe, or when he's walking on his own and I pick him up.... How long does this stage last??

(10 Nov '10, 16:23) DazedandConfused

@DazedandConfused: In our case it really didn't last that long. We ignored them for about a month, and honestly I don't recall seeing it much after that.

(12 Nov '10, 01:29) Scott ♦♦

Whenever our kids throw a tantrum, for whatever reason, we make sure they are not in immediate danger, then ignore it. Our daughter is old enough that we tell her to calm down or go to her room, but we're not going to give in to her tantrum. Our son, who is 16 months old, we wait until he calms down then figure out if there is an underlying need that is not being met (ie hungry, naptime, or needs mommy time). Then we meet the need rather than giving in to whatever the tantrum was about.


answered 16 Dec '09, 02:57

mkcoehoorn's gravatar image

accept rate: 8%

If I was going to write an answer this is exactly what I would have said! wow.

(16 Dec '09, 05:41) Sabrina

+1 for remaining calm and not giving in!

(16 Dec '09, 08:59) Emi

I always find this an interesting question because I doubt there is a single answer that can fit every situation or every parent’s sense of how they wish to handle the situation. As with mkcoehoom, I’m fond of first assuring one is not missing the obvious unmet need and then ignoring the event when possible. In most instances, walking away for a brief time (one minute per age of life is often cited) works nicely. This advice certainly has its limitations. If you are in public, this is not an option. Either you must quickly finish with your business or just pick up and leave. As you site in your question, safety is also a consideration. If an unsafe place, simply picking up a child, placing them in a safe situation and walking away usually suffices.

One thing to consider. Although after one year of age, children start to understand your words, they don’t really understand intent. This can be scary because a child can fall into a swimming pool, be rescued, and jump right in five minutes later. Up until five (and sometimes well beyond – LOL) communication with actions is often more effective than words. Children work hard for attention and don’t necessarily distinguish between positive attention and a slap on the hand. All they know is when they have 100% attention and they work hard for that. Ignoring is one thing they generally don’t like. When walking away, such behavior may initially escalate as they search for more attention in a manner that has worked in the past. More often than not, ignoring such behavior makes such events eventually fade.

As a funny aside, we rarely used the word “nN.” When our child touched something that was considered unsafe, we would remove it from her and calmly say “Thank You.” I sometimes wondered if she thought “Thank You” was a bad word. Claire is now ten years old and this doesn’t appear to be the case.

Hi Tammy and all. Thank you for the response. Funny, I almost didn’t respond to this question because it’s loaded with many landmines. This can be a very time-consuming answer in my office. I’m happy to provide references when possible, but much of my advice has come from parents like you. It’s been molded and shaped over the last ten plus years and I continue to make changes as new ideas come my way. That is why it is fun reading the responses on this site. Always something new to learn.

As to backing up the point in the second paragraph (I’m assuming you mean the notion that children don’t readily get concepts – although they understand words and appear to respond appropriately), it’s as much observation as it is related to what I’ve read. Few say it so directly but it is a principle that plays out in practice. I site the near-drowning example because I’ve seen this happen on too many occasions. A child is confronted with danger, gets hurt, and puts themselves back in harms way the very next day. Clearly the experience didn’t change their behavior. Books such as 1, 2, 3 Magic that push a time-out strategy accept the premise that words are not the ideal mode of communication when changing behavior, but they don’t spell it out as such. Can one pair a word with a behavior change? I’m sure one can. I used to blow a whistle whenever I fed my indoor/outdoor cat. Wherever she was, she would come running (actually, sauntering – she was pretty fat) whenever the whistle was blown. This was extremely helpful when trying to get her inside at night. Similar principles apply when changing the course of temper tantrums. We don’t care for the response and wish to extinguish the behavior. Attention is what they wish to gain. There may be an unmet need but often it is simply attention for attention sake. Thus ignoring the attention (as utilized in 1, 2, 3 Magic by Dr. Phelan) is an effective strategy. Although effective, it’s not a strategy that suits the sensibilities of all parents. There is not a one-size-fits-all answer to this question.

Thank you for prodding me in the right direction as I learn the etiquette of this site. I’ll do my best to reference whenever possible.


answered 16 Dec '09, 13:44

Dr%20Carey's gravatar image

Dr Carey
accept rate: 33%

edited 16 Dec '09, 15:47


Hi Dr. Carey and welcome to moms4mom.com. Here at moms4mom.com we are trying to distinguish ourselves from other parenting forums by adhearing to the back-it-up principale: http://mom4mom.com/back-it-up . Would you be able to provide a reference to your second paragraph. Although as a paediatrician I appreciate you have much of this information "on hand". As someone with a background in child development myself I find answering questions on this site can present a challenge at times, as it requires me to look up references to things I feel that I just "know".

(16 Dec '09, 14:43) Tammy ♦♦

Thank you Dr. Carey I appreciate you taking the time to elaborate your response.

(16 Dec '09, 19:53) Tammy ♦♦
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Asked: 16 Dec '09, 02:04

Seen: 5,473 times

Last updated: 09 Jan '10, 16:50