How Long Can a Tantrum Last?

Tantrums can last anywhere from 5 minutes to 5 hours.  I had a client with a preschooler who had tantrums that would go all day long.  They were convinced he had ADHD, autism or some other disorder to blame for these episodes.  But once the parents learned that they were actually feeding the tantrum and stopped doing so, they lessened and eventually stopped.

Kids are reactors so if you act in a commanding, leader-like way they will naturally stop having tantrums.  

The problem most parents have is that they become the reactors which makes the child the leader.  That’s when chaos ensues.

I’ve used many weird techniques to help parents understand this concept.  One of them is I’ve told them to look at themselves in a mirror when their child is having a tantrum.  Do they look stressed or calm?

That child is watching you so if you can master that calm non-reactive demeanour you are in charge.  

I often see parents in stores struggling with tantrumming kids and they’re almost always trying to reason, bribe or distract.  All signs of “I don’t know what the hell I’m doing!!!”  Kids are the first to pick up on that.

I was in charge of about 20 tots behind the scenes at one of my daughter’s dance concerts years ago.  The parents dropped off all these squirmy crying tots and when they arrived later to pick them up they were all sitting on the floor listening to me quietly.  Many of those parents asked how I did that and I said, “I ignore the bad and reward the good.”

To be honest, it was exhausting as there were so many of them and most were terrified being dropped off with a stranger.  I’d brought along a bag of tricks which included cards, puppets and other toys.  I put on a little show which was completely ridiculous but full of animation and silly movements like arm farts.  They ate it up. 

The kids who sat quietly got to come up and get a toy and become part of the show.  The ones who were antsy were ignored.  They were really young but every single one of them got it by the end and were all behaving beautifully.

That proved my point that kids are so much more clever than most people give them credit.  They understand that acting a certain way will lead to fun or boredom … it’s all up to them. 

Some of them chose to throw tantrums and I had to restrain them but I kept putting on the “show” for the rest and the one that I was holding soon calmed down as didn’t want to miss what was going on.  Holding them made them feel safe and because I was so calm they picked up on that energy.  Ooops, almost went off on a psychological mumbo jumbo tangent but it makes sense doesn’t it?  If you’re upset and are faced with nothing but calm energy, it’s going to rub off right?

Being fun is a huge advantage around kids.  They are naturally drawn to fun and laughter.  If you are the source of that, they are putty in your hands. 

Happy Parenting, Lisa