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How Long Should A Temper Tantrum Last?

I've Seen My Fair Share Of It!

Many parents ask me the question, "How long should a temper tantrum last? "But I think a better question would be, "How do I help my child not have a temper tantrum in the first place?" Both toddlers and teenagers can have temper tantrums.

In this article, we'll talk about the three principles the parents need to remember to help their children whether toddlers or teenagers not have Tantrums. I've seen my fair share of temper tantrums over the years. Yes, I've seen them at the supermarket when parents can't control their children. And by the way, don't feel bad about that. We've all been there. 

But I've also seen them within my own home. Every child experiences a temper tantrum at least a few times in their life I would think. But in my home, because we took in treatment foster children, we had a lot of temper tantrums. And they were all done by children ages 12 to 18. Amazingly enough, I did this at a time when I had my own children as toddlers. 

The Brain

So, there were some days where I had toddler temper tantrums and teenage temper tantrums all happening at the same time. Needless to say, I did a lot of talking, a lot of teaching, a lot of calm. And by the end of the day, I just wanted some quiet. Let's talk for a second about the brain. So, the front part of the brain does all of the logical processing for the brain. 

The middle part of the brain is the emotional center. The back part of the brain is what they often refer to as the fight-or-flight part of the brain. When a person goes all the way into the back part of their brain, that's usually when they are in full-tantrum mode. 

So, the idea is to try to help a person go from midbrain to front before they choose to fall back to that back part of the brain that's going to lead to those Tantrums that end up taking a while to overcome. What happens when a person has gone to the back brain and has had a tantrum for a period of time? They're exhausted, they fall asleep. Because it literally wears them out. 

How Long Does It Really Take?

The chemical overload on the brain makes the body feel like it just needs a break after that. Once a person gets back to the fight-or-flight part of the brain, it can take around 20 minutes or so for them to finally get their brain chemicals back to a place where they can fully think again. 

So, how long should a temper tantrum take? Well, it can take 20 minutes. It can take longer if they keep pushing and pushing and pushing. It's the 20 minutes that is required when a person is back there to sometimes fully get calm. So, I've had foster children have Tantrums for days. 

They just keep reinventing it again and again and again. A person can do that. When I was a child, I remember not wanting to do something that my parents wanted me to do. And for some reason, I felt very personal about this thing. I don't know what it was but I remember it was my birthday and I was told no for whatever that thing was. And I guess on a birthday, sometimes people feel a little bit entitled perhaps. 

So anyway, I went into my room and cried. In fact, I think they told me to go to my room. Probably I got sent to my room is probably what happened. So, while in there I screamed, I hollered. I remember scooching over to the heat vent of the house and crying, "It's not fair I never get anything I want" into the heat vent to try to get everybody else to hear me. 

Because if I was in my room maybe they wouldn't hear me. And I wanted my tantrum to really do some good. So, I hollered and hollered and hollered. And I pushed for a very long time. At least an hour that I kicked and hollered and screamed and tried again. And I would start to feel myself calm down. I remember this. For some reason, I have these vivid memories of my childhood. 

Maybe it's so that I can teach this stuff. Anyway, but I remember feeling my brain start to calm down. And then ramping it up again because I didn't want to calm down. Because I hadn't gotten my way yet. So, the brain does calm down after a time. But it only stays calm down if a person lets it. 

So, after I kicked and screamed forever, I remember I fell asleep on the floor of my bedroom on my birthday. And my mother had to come in and wake me up when it was time for my party to start. There are 3 principles parents need to remember to help their children stop having temper tantrums in the first place. 


Number 1 is pre-teach. The children should know the skills that they can use to communicate effectively before the situation occurs where they're going to get a no answer or have to follow an instruction that they might not want to follow. 

We teach four basic skills in the teaching self-government course. And they are following instructions, accepting no answers, accepting consequences, and disagreeing appropriately. Each one of these four skills has a skill set attached to it. 

If the children know these skills and the skill sets that are attached to the skill, then when you tell them, 'No, you can't have the last cookie." Then they can look at you keep a calm face voice and body say, "Okay." Or they can ask to disagree appropriately which is really empowering after all. And then they can get their way maybe even if you weren't going to let them have that last cookie, to begin with. 

So, if they disagree appropriately interaction works then great. But if not, they might have to just say okay and drop the subject. Because that's how they accept a no answer. They need to know these skills. And right before a no is coming or instruction is coming that they might not want to do, the parent is going to want to prepare them for how to use this skill that they've pre-taught them already in the first place. 

Low Tolerances

The second principle for conquering temper tantrums is to have your tolerances low. What that means is parents can't tolerate too much misbehavior. So, decide ahead of time "I'm not going to tolerate the eye-rolling. I'm not going to tolerate the back talking. I'm not going to tolerate the kicking off the walls or whatever it happens to be...' Now, don't jump into a power struggle with them. 

You need skills for how to handle it. But decide ahead of time you will correct it. Because if you tolerate it sometimes but then you don't tolerate it other times, there's not enough consistency there and the temper tantrums will just continue to happen perpetually. Because sometimes it works. So, it's an actual strategy that they feel that they can use to try to get their way. 

So, low tolerances. That means you have to go to corrections quickly. Doesn't have to be mean. It doesn't have to be abrupt or harsh. Just quick and calm. Handle those situations by doing a proper correction. 


The third principle that parents should use to help solve temper tantrum problems is praise. I know that doesn't seem like it fits but it absolutely does. When a person is learning to master themselves or govern themselves as I call it, they need to learn cause and effect. That's one of the key ingredients to learning self-government. So, you don't learn cause and effect well if you only hear the bad. You need to hear the good too. 

If your child chooses not to have a temper tantrum when they maybe would have in the past, they choose to be calm, they choose to disagree appropriately with you, and use some of the self-government skills that you've taught them. And that child should be praised. You should show them that they did the right thing and that there were good results from that. 

Good actions, good thoughts, good behavior should equal praise. That's how we properly teach all sides of cause and effect so that people want to choose the positive in the future. Now, that we've gone over how to help your children conquer their temper tantrums, you should watch how to help a child calm down when angry.

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