Toddler tantrum with parents


Guiding Toddlers

Next to love, guidance is one of the biggest gifts you can give your child. A good time to start giving guidance is after the first year. By 15 months, children begin to understand what is OK and what is not. Start with a few simple guidelines, such as holding hands when walking across the street, treating people and animals kindly, and not breaking things. Set a good example and praise good behavior.

Where to Find Help

Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline
Help with discipline problems and parent stress; child abuse prevention.

Zero to Three
Information on early childhood.

More Resources

Things You Can Do

Setting Limits: Guidance and Discipline

  • Be patient. It takes toddlers a long time to learn self-control.

  • Be consistent. For example, always hold your child’s hand when you cross the street.

  • What you expect should fit your child’s age. For example, most toddlers cannot sit still for long.

  • Tell and show your child what you want her to do.

  • Be specific. “Draw on the paper, not on the wall” is better than “Stop that.”

  • Praise and hug your child for good behavior.

  • Criticize the behavior, not the child. “Do not run into the street. You could get hurt!” is better than “You are a bad girl!”

  • Save the “no’s” for important limits, like safety issues.

  • Help your child express her feelings in words. Let her talk about what has made her frustrated or upset.

  • Don’t allow hitting, kicking, biting, or throwing. If your child does this, take her to another room, and tell her that the action is not allowed.

If You Feel You Are Going to Lose Your Temper

  • Do not hit or yell at your child. This can cause permanent harm.

  • If you are too angry to talk, wait until you have calmed down. If you can, take a break while another adult watches your child for a while.

  • If you are having trouble dealing with a difficult behavior, you can call Childhelp.

  • Ask other parents what works for them. Or look for a parenting class.

Temper Tantrums Are Normal

A tantrum is your child’s way of asking for help. She is upset and does not know how to help herself. She needs you to help her learn self-control and find ways to solve problems. You may be able to figure out what triggers tantrums and prevent some of them. For example, being hungry and overtired are two common triggers.

When Your Child Has a Tantrum

When your toddler has a tantrum, she needs your help to calm down. You may need to pick her up and take her away from the problem. You can also try to distract her with something else to do. After your toddler has calmed down, talk about what happened. Help her find other ways to express her feelings.

Give Children Limited Choices

When children have choices, they feel more in control and get less frustrated. Let your child choose between wearing her blue or green socks, or eating an apple or a banana for a snack. Offer only 2 or 3 choices. Too many choices can confuse young children.


Enrique loves to help his dad. Teaching children to help takes time, but this is how they learn to be responsible.