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9 Genius Steps For Handling 5 Year Old Tantrums Anywhere!

By Paula McLaren - Norland Nurse NNEB RSH | Updated - 3 August 2021

5 year old tantrums can be a very stressful time for a parent. How do they manage to produce so many screams?!

You may have thought they would have grown out of tantrums by now... But some kids just LOVE to kick, wail and cry! (Right in the middle of a shopping aisle too.. How considerate!)

So how can we handle these 5 year old tantrums and try to stop them from happening again?

And are there any special tactics we can use to help deflect and handle a tantrum?

5 year old tantrums

Well, let's dive right on into the thick of it!

What is a tantrum?

A tantrum is an outburst of anger born out of frustration or anger. They can result in your child kicking, screaming, hitting or even biting. Your child may also throw things and, in extreme cases, hold their breath for extended periods of time.

How is a tantrum different from a meltdown?

The main difference between 5 year old tantrums and meltdowns is that a tantrum is a result of frustration or anger, while a meltdown is a result of emotional or sensory overload.

During a tantrum, your child will still have some element of control over their behaviour and the tantrum will usually cease once they have got what they want.

But with a meltdown, your child will struggle to calm down and will only do so once they have been removed from the situation that caused the meltdown in the first place. 

That being said, some tantrums can turn into meltdowns if they go on for a long time.

5 year old tantrums Featured Image

Tantrums are:

  • Goal driven
  • More verbal and communicative
  • A normal reaction to feeling frustrated or angry or not getting their own way
  • Driven by a desire for attention or a result of not being able to communicate what is wanted
  • Under the child's control and can be stopped when their goal is achieved
  • Less common in children as they grow older

Meltdowns are:

  • Not goal driven 
  • Less verbal and communicative
  • An instinctive reaction to feeling overwhelmed or being unable to handle strong emotions such as fear and anxiety or as a result of sensory overload
  • Out of a childs control or ability to reason
  • Usually long lasting 
  • Often something children will not grow out of

During a tantrum, children will:

  • Watch to see what your reaction will be
  • Yell and be able to negotiate
  • Stop once they get what they want
  • Recover quickly once the tantrum is over

During a meltdown, children will: 

  • Not be able to process what is going on around them
  • Not be able to bargain or negotiate
  • Struggle to calm down
  • Often become withdrawn afterwards

Why do children have tantrums?

Most children have tantrums because they become frustrated at not being able to do something, have what they want, or because they are not able to communicate clearly how they are feeling.

As children grow, they can easily become overwhelmed by all the human emotions that they are experiencing. 

Learning how to deal with discomfort, anger, frustrations, hunger, tiredness, jealousy, is a life skill that takes time to develop. 

Quite naturally all these emotions can get the better of children and will often result in a tantrum.

However, tantrums will also occur when a child does not get their own way and it is very important to stand your ground on these occasions, to not to reinforce the tantrum behaviour resulting in your child getting what they want.

And there lies the slippery slope that may be difficult to navigate your way out of!

As your child's vocabulary and communication skills become more developed, tantrums usually become less frequent. 

However, frustration, not being able to tell you what they want, not being able to do what they want and a lack of understanding why they can't do something (even when you offer them an explanation or alternative), will often result in an angry outburst regardless of age!

Here's a quick video to let you know that every child is different, but that you're not alone with your little one's tantrums!

Are 5 year old tantrums normal?

While tantrums are more common in younger children who do not yet have adequate communication and emotional skills, it is not uncommon for 5 year olds to throw tantrums.

If, however, your 5 year old is throwing regular tantrums and has age-appropriate communication and emotional skills, you will need to look at the source of their emotional outbursts in order to help both you and them cope with this build-up of emotions.

When do 5 year old tantrums usually occur?

Most 5 year old tantrums will be as a result of:

  • tiredness,
  • hunger,
  • overstimulation,
  • not feeling heard, 
  • or not getting their own way.

It is important therefore to ensure that your child is getting enough sleep and having regular healthy meals with adequate downtime. 

REMEMBER

We as adults all know how easy it is to be short-tempered when we are lacking in sleep or have not eaten, so you can imagine how this can impact a young child's behaviour!

Look closer into the issue

Your 5 year old may also start acting up and throwing tantrums if they are experiencing some kind of stress or emotional upset in the home or at school too. If you suspect this is the case you will need to look more deeply as to what might be triggering this behaviour.

Look at when and where tantrums occur as these factors may give you some insight into what is troubling your child. If they are throwing tantrums in the morning before going to school then maybe they are anxious about going to school or something that happens at school. 

Lack of communication can be a common trigger for 5 year old tantrums too. Therefore, ensuring that you are giving your child opportunities to be heard and listened to is very important. 

Finally, they may also be throwing tantrums at 5 years of age because they have worked in the past and this tactic has gotten them what they wanted!

The difference between power tantrums and emotional tantrums

So what is the difference between power and emotional tantrums for 5 year olds?

Power tantrums:

Power tantrums in 5 year olds are all about getting what they want and will usually be more frequent if they have been successful in the past. 

They will often occur over a regular event in the day such as at mealtimes, bathtimes and bedtimes or getting dressed.

Emotional tantrums:

Emotional 5 year old tantrums are really a form of meltdown rather than a tantrum.

In 5 year olds they will usually be triggered by frustration or by some sort of stress, causing anxiety in your child’s life, such as problems in the family or at school. 

Sensory overload can also cause an emotional tantrum.

Identifying the source of the tantrum will determine how you handle it.

9 Genius Steps for dealing with 5 year old tantrums

Dealing with tantrums is never easy and dealing with 5 year old tantrums can be tricky depending on the source.

Just as important as knowing how to deal with 5 year old tantrums is knowing how to predict them!

Knowing your child's triggers is key as well as encouraging them to talk about their feelings and use words rather than physical outbursts to express themselves.

Teaching and modelling good listening and communication skills are also hugely beneficial.

So here are things you can put in place to help your little one cope with intense emotions:

1. Create a safe quiet place for your 5 year old to retreat to

Having a designated safe place for your child to go to when they are feeling angry or frustrated can really help. 

When they feel their emotions getting out of control, having a safe place to retreat can help divert the tantrum. 

This can be a corner of the living room or playroom where there are cushions, soft toys and books to look at or even their bedroom. If they retreat to this place you can then go to them and encourage them to talk about how they are feeling.

2. Practise Teddy bear breathing

Deep breathing is a great way to calm down but is not always easy to teach to a young child. 

Teddy bear breathing is a fun way for your child to learn this useful skill. 

Balance a teddy bear on their tummy and give it a ride with the rising and falling of their breath. It is a great idea to make this part of the bedtime routine when you are lying down and wanting to calm down for the evening

3. Utilise Emotional Development Toys

Using emotional developmental toys such as the Little Spot Range can encourage your children to talk about their emotions and are especially useful after an outburst when you are trying to talk about how they were feeling and what triggered it.

4. Utilise Emotional Flashcards

Emotional flashcards are also a great way to get your children to talk about their feelings. 

5. Lead by example

Teaching your child good listening skills by leading by example and listening to what they have to say, can also go a long way in avoiding unnecessary tantrums.

6. Talking about emotions and feelings

In general, is very important for your 5 year old to understand emotions and feelings as they may be struggling to deal with them! Explain that having these emotions is not a bad thing, but that they must be expressed in an acceptable manner.

7. Praise Them 

Praise your 5 year old when they manage their anger or frustration in a positive and acceptable way. This will reinforce positive behaviour and may help to reduce tantrums in the future.

8. Give your child a voice

5 year olds are typically trying to find out how feelings and things in general work and will appreciate the opportunity to ask questions and get explanations from you.

9. Remain Empathetic

It is important to be empathetic to your child’s emotions. Acknowledging that you understand how or why they are feeling the way they do and then teach them ways to help deal with those feelings in an acceptable way.

9 GENIUS Steps To Navigate Any Temper Tantrum

6 things you MUST do when your 5 year old is having a tantrum

So what must we do as parents when our little one's are wailing and screaming during a tantrum?

1. Stay calm 

When your child is in a full-blown tantrum you have to do the opposite. Take a deep breath and stay extremely calm. 

2. Talk in a slow calm voice or not at all

Sometimes it is best not to say anything at all but if you do, speak in a calm but confident voice. 

3. Acknowledging their anger or frustration

Acknowledge that you understand they are angry or frustrated and that when they calm down you can talk about it

4. Move them to a safe place, if you can 

If your child is thrashing about, trying to throw things etc then if you can move them to a safe place. 

5. Remove the audience

If you are in a crowded place or where others are present you will find it easier to cope with the tantrum if people are not watching. 

It is natural to feel embarrassed if your child kicks off in public. 

By moving to a more private location you can concentrate on dealing with the tantrum without worrying what others are thinking

6. Wait it out

Finally, wait it out. 

You can do nothing constructive whilst the tantrum is in full swing. 

Talking about how to handle these outbursts comes later in the day.

6 Things You Must Do During a Temper Tantrum

3 things you should NEVER do during a tantrum

So, what must we NEVER do during a tantrum?

1. Don’t raise your voice

Raising your voice will just escalate the situation. As hard as it may seem, try to stay calm and collected. 

2. Don’t give in

If your child is throwing a tantrum because you have said no to something... don’t give in. 

I know it is very tempting to do so especially if the tantrum is happening in a public place but once you give in, you are lost. 

If a tantrum achieves results then your child will continue to resort to them to get their way. 

3. Don’t try reasoning or negotiating 

You should never try to reason or negotiate with a tantrum-throwing child. Begging them to stop or promising them a reward for stopping is not the way to go. 

This only results in giving the bad behaviour a reward and the power and you want to take the power out of the tantrum.

When to seek professional help

In some cases, temper tantrums in the older child can be an indication of an underlying condition linked to the child not being able to process emotions effectively. 

If you notice any of the following then I would advise having a chat with a medical professional to see if an assessment would be useful:

  • Tantrums are happening more often, are getting worse and last longer.
  • If your child struggles to calm down after an outburst
  • Your child tries to hurt himself or others.
  • Your child always opposes you, argues a lot and hardly ever cooperates with you.

5 Year old tantrums RECAP

Dealing with tantrums is never easy at any age but at 5 years old your child is capable of learning how to handle their emotions and communicating how they feel.

Your job is to make sure they have the tools they need to express these emotions in an acceptable way.

Teach and model good listening skills and encourage your 5 year old to talk about and handle their feelings and emotions, by using appropriate emotional developmental toys and life skills, such as deep breathing and moving to a safe calm space when it all gets too much.

Try to stay one step ahead, be empathetic to their issues, but stand firm if you have said no to something and they try a tantrum to get what they want.

As with most parenting skills, consistency is key coupled with a large dose of patience, love and understanding.

You’ve got this! <3

With love and support until next time, Happy Parenting!

Teething to Tantrums Author

Paula McLaren is the founder of Teething to Tantrums and has been in the childcare industry as a Norland Nanny since 1982. Since then, her mission has been to help parents become the best they can possibly be. And each year, she continues to help more families understand their child's development, the trials and joys of parenting and of course, how to care for their little ones.

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