Dealing with your child’s tantrums and anger is one of the most challenging aspects of parenting – especially if she’s hitting or biting other children. Find out more about the impulses behind your child’s behavior and how best to handle her meltdowns without losing your cool.

How to handle your toddler's challenging behavior

Toddler tantrums

The first thing to know is you’re not the only mum whose toddler is having tantrums … or that they mostly seem to happen when you’re out in public!

Toddler meltdowns are VERY common and a totally normal part of your little one’s development. It’s all part of her trying to assert her independence and learn about her place in the world.

Tantrums usually start when your child is around 18 months old and can last until she is three or four.

Your little one’s ability to communicate at this stage is also quite limited which can be frustrating as she can’t tell you what she wants. And the result is often a tantrum.

What can you do about tantrums?

We know it’s easier said than done but when your toddler is in the middle of an epic meltdown, getting angry doesn’t help.

Instead, the best thing you can do is stay calm and don’t react to her behavior. Here is a three-step strategy for coping with your toddler’s tantrums.

Stay calm

If you’re out in public, keep an eye on your child to make sure she is safe but don’t answer her back or shout at her. If you respond, you’re giving her the attention she wants.

Be consistent

It might be your little one is screaming because you won’t buy her a chocolate bar at the supermarket.

And while it’s tempting to give in and buy it for her to end her tantrum, it’s important to stick to your guns. Otherwise, she’ll learn having a tantrum is a way of getting what she wants.

Give her attention when the tantrum stops

As soon as her tantrum shows signs of stopping, start giving her attention again.

Give her cuddles and kisses and reward her calm behavior.

Hair pulling, hitting and biting other children

It can be a shock when you see your child hurt or hit other children, especially when it happens for the first time.

Yet this aggressive behavior – including hitting, kicking, biting and hair pulling – is a normal part of your toddler’s development.

It usually peaks when she is around two and, as with tantrums, is connected to her frustration at not being able to communicate what she wants or how she is feeling.

What can you do about my toddler’s aggressive behavior?

As with your toddler’s tantrums, it’s important you stay calm. Which can be hard when you see her hit her sibling or bite another child in the playground.

There are a number of things you can do to help your child understand that aggressive behavior is not acceptable.

Explain that hitting is wrong

If you see her hitting or kicking, tell her straight away, ‘No, hitting is wrong. We don’t hit.’

Be consistent and say this every time you see her being aggressive.

Help her apologize

Learning to say sorry is an important life lesson and helps your child start to learn empathy.

Take your child to apologize to the other child and their parent. Even if she can’t say sorry herself, she will see you do it and, depending on her age, understand that you are not happy about her behavior.

Show her there are consequences

If you’re at a soft play or park and your child is biting or kicking another child, either give her a time out from playing or take her home.

Explain the reason you are doing this is because she was hitting or biting. She might not understand all your words but she’ll realize the consequence is that she is no longer playing.

Be consistent

Try and react the same way each time your child hits or pulls hair.

By being consistent, she will start to understand that being aggressive means she doesn’t get to play for example.

Dangerous behaviour

There are times when your toddler can inadvertently put herself in danger – either by running out in the road or trying to touch a hot pan for example.

This can be incredibly scary for parents. While you see the danger, your child is blissfully unaware of the possible consequences of her actions.

What can you do about my toddler’s dangerous behavior?

First get them out of danger, and say a firm NO! Then, in an age appropriate way, explain why whatever they have done is dangerous.

Chances are a firm NO and the look on your face will frighten them enough to learn not to do it again.

But if you have a child who doesn’t pick up the danger signs, use safety equipment such as reins when you’re out if they have a habit of running off.

And safety-proof your home, adding fire guards and stair gates if needed.


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