Tantrums In 5 Year Olds: The Best Advice You’ll Ever Receive

By Paula McLaren •  Updated: 05/30/22 •  13 min read  •  Preschool » Preschooler Boundaries

Tantrums in 5 year olds can be very stressful for parents…

How does a child manage to produce such a loud continuous scream?!

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…)

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 tantrums in 5 year olds?

What Is A Tantrum?

Are 5 Year Old Tantrums Normal?

In short: yes, 5 year old tantrums are normal.

And while tantrums are more common in younger children who do not yet have the communication and emotional skills to explain what they want… It is not uncommon for 5 year olds to throw tantrums from time to time.

Why Do 5 Year Old Tantrums Happen?

Most 5 year old tantrums will be a result of:

However, some 5 year old tantrums can be caused by anxiety about a certain aspect of their life…

Or the confidence that a tantrum has always resulted in them getting what they wanted in the past and so your child is now choosing to throw a tantrum in order to get a certain reaction from you.

However, with all this said, it’s important to know whether your 5 year old is throwing a tantrum or experiencing an emotional meltdown… as your reaction will slightly differ for each scenario.

What Is The Difference Between A Tantrum And A Meltdown?

The main difference between tantrums in 5 year olds and meltdowns is that:

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

But with an emotional 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. 

However, some tantrums can turn into meltdowns if they go on for a long time

Characteristics Of A Tantrum:

Characteristics Of A Meltdown:

If you suspect that your 5 year old is experiencing meltdowns instead of tantrums, click here to get specific advice on how to handle emotional meltdowns in children.

How To Handle Tantrums In 5 Year Olds Anywhere

Dealing with tantrums is never easy and dealing with 5 year old tantrums can be even trickier depending on their source...

But, here is a list of things you can do during a tantrum to help your little one cope with their intense emotions:

6 Steps For Handling Tantrums In 5 Year Olds

1. Stay Calm

As hard as it can be to do, when your child is in a full-blown tantrum you have to do the opposite.

By taking a deep breath and staying extremely calm, you are modelling to your child a calm, unwavering, safe space to return to. 

2. Acknowledge Their Frustration Or Anger

Tantrums can occur when your child feels ignored or unheard.

Therefore, you should acknowledge that you understand their feelings of anger or frustration and that when they calm down, you can talk about it together.

3. Talk In A Slow Voice Or Not At All

Tantrums in 5 year olds often happen when your child wants a reaction from you. So, sometimes it is best not to say anything at all when a tantrum is happening.

But if you do have to talk them through a process or acknowledge their emotions, speak in a slow, confident and neutral voice. 

4. Move Your Child To A Safe Place, If You Can

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

This can also help to stop a tantrum as you may be removing them from a triggering environment.

5. Remove The Audience, If You Can

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

But remember, your child throwing a tantrum is NOT a sign of you being a bad parent.

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

6. Wait It Out And Have A Chat

Finally, you will just have to see the tantrum through.

You cannot do anything constructive whilst the tantrum is in full swing and if you rush it, your child will not learn how to handle these emotions in the future.

So, regardless of what is happening, slow down and wait for the tantrum to end.

Once it is over, you can then have a conversation with your 5 year old about their tantrum and educate them about a more appropriate way to express their emotions.

3 Things You Should NEVER Do When Your Child Is Having A Tantrum

So, it’s all good knowing what to do when 5 year old tantrums are happening…

But what are the key things that you must NEVER do when your child is throwing 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 during your 5 year old’s tantrums. 

2. Don’t Give In

If your child is throwing a tantrum because you have said ‘no’ to something they wanted… do not 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 to your 5 year old’s demands, you have lost. 

And if a tantrum achieves the result your child wanted, they will continue to throw tantrums to get their own way in the future. 

3. Don’t Try Bribing Or Negotiating

You should never try to reason or negotiate with a tantrum-throwing child.

Begging them or promising them a reward for stopping is never the way to go. 

Bribing results in giving the unwanted tantrum behaviour a reward and the power to manipulate the situation.

Children are very clever and just like giving in, negotiating and bribing your child will only empower them to get what they want from throwing a tantrum more.

PS: Here’s a quick video to help you deal with your 5 year old tantrums from Jordan Peterson that will also help you understand that you’re not going through this journey alone.

Jordan Peterson: How To Deal With Your Child’s Temper Tantrums

How To Prevent Tantrums In 5 Year Olds From Happening

As well as the above actions being useful for handling a 5 year old tantrum when it’s happening, and the advice of what not to do when a tantrum is happening…

Here are my top tips to prevent these tantrums from even happening:

9 Way To Prevent 5 Year Old Tantrums From Happening

1. Create A Calm Down Corner For Your 5 Year Old To Retreat To

Having a designated calm down corner for your child to retreat to when they are feeling angry or frustrated can really help to divert tantrums in 5 year olds. 

Making the calm down corner as cosy as possible with a tent and lots of cushions will help your child to feel safe in a neutral environment where you can then go and encourage them to talk about how they are feeling in a non-intimidating place.

Tiny Land Large Kids Teepee Tent with Padded Mat, Light String & Carry Case
Creating a cosy and safe environment, this teepee tent provides the perfect retreat for overwhelmed children who need a little break to process their emotions.
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2. Practise Teddy Bear Deep Breathing

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

Therefore, 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.

GUND "Toothpick" Soft Plush Teddy Bear
A super soft and cuddly toy, perfect for children of all ages to hold and play with, the GUND plush bear will be the perfect companion to practise deep breathing exercises with your little one.
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3. Utilise Emotional Development Toys

Using emotional developmental toys such as the Little Spot Range of emotional toys can encourage your children to talk about their feelings and emotions in a healthy way.

They are especially useful after an outburst when you are trying to talk about how they were feeling before and during the tantrum and what triggered it.

A Little SPOT of Emotion - Set of 8 Plush Toys with Feelings Book
With 8 different emotional plush toys, this set is a very helpful tool to teach children about their emotions and how to handle them in a fun and engaging way.
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4. Utilise Emotional Flashcards

Emotional flashcards are also a great way to get your children to talk about their feelings. Similar to the emotional plush toys, these flashcards are great to use when you are out and about and a tantrum is about to happen.

Brybelly Feelings in a Flash - Emotional Intelligence Flashcard Game
Perfect for on-the-go parents, these emotional flashcards fit neatly into your bag so you are ready to discuss emotions and feelings after a tantrum, anytime, anywhere.
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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 as your child will feel heard and acknowledged.

6. Talk Openly 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!

So as well as using the flashcards and emotional toys, regularly explain to your 5 year old that having these emotions is not a bad thing, but that they must be expressed in an acceptable manner.

7. Praise Your Child When They Manage Their Emotions Appropriately

Praising your child when they manage their anger or frustration in a positive and acceptable way will reinforce positive behaviour and help to reduce tantrums in the future.

8. Give Your Child A Voice And An Explanation

5 year olds are typically trying to find out how their feelings and the world works around them and as a result, they will appreciate the opportunity to ask you questions and get explanations from you.

Again, by being present and taking the time to explain a situation thoroughly, your child will feel heard and will be less likely to throw a tantrum out of frustration and misunderstanding.

9. Remain Empathetic

I know I mentioned this when your 5 year old is having a tantrum, however, it is equally as important to remain empathetic to your child’s emotions when they are not having a tantrum too.

Acknowledging that you understand how or why they are feeling the way they do in any situation will help them to know you care for them all the time and will ensure they feel heard if they do happen to have a tantrum.

When To Seek Help For 5 Year Old Tantrums

In some cases, temper tantrums in the 5 year olds 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 signs, then I would advise having a chat with a medical professional to see if an emotional assessment would be useful:

5 Year Old Tantrums Summary

Dealing with tantrums is never easy… but at 5 years old your child is capable of learning how to handle their emotions and communicating how they feel meaning to help reduce the chances of tantrums in 5 year olds from happening in the future.

Remember to:

Finally, try to stay one step ahead, be empathetic to your 5 year old issues, and remember to stand firm if you have said ‘no’ to something and your child starts having a tantrum to try and get what they want!

Further Reading

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Paula McLaren

Paul Mclaren - Norland Nurse NNEB RSH is the founder of Teething to Tantrums and has been in the child care 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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