Understanding Spirited Children and Tackling Temper Tantrums – February 2015

Do you dread taking your two-year-old out in public for fear that she might show her “true spirited self” with a classic temper tantrum?

According to Beverly Anderson, Executive Director of Ebenezer Child Care Centers with locations in Downtown Milwaukee, Milwaukee’s southside, Oak Creek, and Wauwatosa, “While ‘spirited’ children can sometimes be a challenge, it’s important to recognize that outbursts and temper tantrums are a natural part of the toddler years. And, as parents, you should never take these situations personally, but instead realize that your child is acting out of frustration because of what is going on around her.”

“The important thing is to stay calm and try to resolve the situation in a peaceful manner,” says Anderson.

She recommends trying these tricks of the trade to help your child progress through this challenging developmental phase.

Be Prepared

Don’t take your child grocery shopping or running errands if you know there are times in the day when she is more spirited than others, for instance when she is tired and/or hungry. Likewise, if you feel rushed and worn out and know that this makes it harder for you to be patient with your child, don’t push yourself either. You are only setting yourself up for failure.

Instead, plan ahead, and do these types of activities when both you and your child are at your best. Then, you can enjoy each other, have an interactive shopping experience, and help your child stay in control of herself and occupied for the duration of your trip.

Stay Calm

When your child does demand something while on a shopping trip, take a deep breath and remain in control of the situation. Calmly tell her why she is not going to get what she is demanding. Do not allow your emotions to let her get her way.

If your child starts making a spirited scene, gently pick her up and hold her, until she can get in control. Repeatedly reinforce to your child the importance of having control.


According to Anderson, one of the best ways to stop a spirited outburst or temper tantrum in its tracks is to redirect your child from the subject matter that is the source of the problem.

For example, if your child is making a scene because she wants pizza for dinner but you are serving something else, simply change the subject altogether and ask if she wants to play a game or do another fun project when she is finished with her meal. This strategy will help your child to refocus her energy in a positive matter.

In the same regard, humor can also be a powerful tool to stop tantrums and other spirited outbursts. Just be careful, so your child doesn’t think you are making fun of her.

Don’t Give In

The most important thing to remember when dealing with spirited outbursts and temper tantrums is not to give in, but to rather help your child work through her frustrations and understand that there is a more positive way to address them.

“Once your child is calm, it’s important to praise her for getting in control. It is equally important, however, to remind her why you have rules and why they must be followed. Discuss your child’s frustrations and how she could have gotten better results by asking for help rather than having an outburst.

“Children need to learn from an early age that there are appropriate ways to behave and that there are direct consequences for their actions. In being taught this, they will quickly realize that outbursts are not an effective way to behave,” says Anderson. “The sooner they learn this, the quicker they will feel in control of their behavior, and the outbursts will dissipate.”

Ebenezer Child Care Centers is a not-for-profit, locally based agency committed to providing early childhood programs from the heart. The agency prides itself on being different from other child care providers in that it offers a home-like atmosphere; individualized, nurturing care; and a structured curriculum that is virtues-based for every child’s developmental stage.

Every Ebenezer Child Care Center focuses on all aspects of a child’s development: cognitive, physical, emotional, and social. In addition to providing quality care, the agency also offers free Parenting Talks and other educational programming all aimed at helping parents.

The agency has locations in Downtown Milwaukee, Milwaukee’s southside, Oak Creek, and Wauwatosa. The agency’s main office is located at 1496 South 29th Street, Milwaukee. For more information, please call 414-643-5070