April 11

7 ways to deal with your terrible 3 year old kid’s tantrums



Your 3 year old is not beside you, yelling.

Nor is he refusing to eat his food, flipping his bowl onto the table, and shouting,


You’re here, reading this article now.

We’ve all been there. Where despite our best efforts to entertain, and educate our child, they have come to this point where they just don’t seem that cute anymore.

Maybe your child doesn't seem that cute anymore.
Maybe your child doesn’t seem that cute anymore.


They actually seem like monsters.

And deep down, you regret taking the decision to have your child.

Full disclosure, I’m not a parent (yet).

You might then wonder what right I have to write this article.

For 5 years, I trained and worked as a social worker, working with children. One of my earliest experiences was working with a family with 5 young children, aged between 1 to 6, crammed in a tiny 1-room apartment.

I would have to take care of them whilst the mother went for errands such as child registration, or taking the child to the doctor.

That was when I first experienced the full fury of a 3-year-old’s temper.

Fine. I was tired.

For the past hour, I had been playing with the child, trying to balance a ball on top of a pair of wooden chopsticks.

It didn’t work.

I got tired and wanted a break.

But he refused. He would drag me back again and again.

Then the child started kicking

On another instance, when we tried bringing the child to the preschool, he would flop onto the floor, and start screaming. When we tried to put on his shoes, he would kick out at us.

We were at a loss.

Sometimes it can be really tough to show love to your difficult child.
Sometimes it can be really tough to show love to your difficult child.

What do you do when you face a child like that?

The conventional advice would be for you to chill.

Nah. You and I know that advice doesn’t work, especially when you’re trying to work, get the house sorted, deal with your partner’s temper (too!), and now… you have a kid’s temper to deal with.

This is normal and healthy development

The ages between 2 and 3 are when the child starts discovering their boundaries.

They discover what is them, and what is not.

They start testing the limits, and trying to see what happens when those limits are pushed.

The problem is how we react, and respond to them

But often, the problem is how we choose to react, or respond to our child when this happens.

Do we also lose our cool, or do we remain calm?

As Victor Frankl, the Holocaust survivor, once pointed out,

“Between stimulus and response there is a space.

In that space is our power to choose our response.

In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

Simply taking a breath when your child starts throwing a temper can be a good way to space out your response to the child.

There is no right way

But more importantly, it’s also recognising that there may not be a single right way.

Whilst you can spend more time Googling for the right answers, the more important thing is to focus on creating a strong relationship where this conflict can be worked out with your child.

Sometimes you might need a special needs school to help

But there are times when you might need professionals at a special needs school to help. One such example is Maitri School, in Singapore. It’s one of the newest SPED (special education) schools in Singapore.

What if your child is trying his best?

You and I know that growing up isn’t the easiest process. And as your child sees these growth spurts, and starts experiencing these changes in their body, they may also struggle to understand what’s happening.

Screaming at them, taking a cane to discipline them, sometimes may not be the most understanding thing to do.

As Brene Brown once said in her book Rising Strong, rather than assuming the worst of people, why not assume the best of them?

Reach out to your child. It may be a confusing time for him too.
Reach out to your child. It may be a confusing time for him too.

Recognise that your child’s first role model is you

Sometimes, our child can be the very worst reflections of ourselves. I remember once working with a parent who constantly complained that his child was screaming whenever he didn’t get what he wanted.

I asked,

What behavior do you show as the parent, when you are upset at home?

Is it similar?

He immediately got defensive. That’s when I knew that I was striking a chord.

Whilst you can’t change the past, you can gently explain to your child that screaming and throwing a temper is not okay.

Explain your behavior too. Say,

I know daddy has sometimes yelled at mummy.

Sometimes I cannot control myself. But I’m trying to and learning how to.

You can too.

Use different ways to engage your child

With today's attention economy, it can be more and more difficult to engage your child.
With today’s attention economy, it can be more and more difficult to engage your child.

In today’s age of hyperstimulation, it can be easy to just pass your child the iPad, and get them onto Youtube, as a quick fix.

But this is not a long term fix.

Take time to spend quality time with them.

These don’t have to be through expensive ways too. There are cheap toys available online, that anyone can easily afford!

Invest in open-ended toys, like Modu, or Avdar Gym, which focus on expanding a child’s creativity.

Modu focuses on open ended kits that allow children to build whatever they want.
Modu focuses on open ended kits that allow children to build whatever they want.

More importantly, it moves them away from the screen, and into the real world.

Open ended toys like Modu can help in bringing the imagination of kids into the real world.
Open ended toys like Modu can help in bringing the imagination of kids into the real world.

Take time to spend time with them outdoors

Kick a ball. Breathe the fresh air. Ride a bike.

The beauty of the outdoors is that it’s real, and cannot be replicated in the virtual world.

Simply bringing your child everyday outdoors, to exhaust their energy playing in the playground, or running with others, can help them to build their social skills.

It can help them to be better at socio-emotional regulation, especially when school may take an incredibly heavy toll on them, with some schools’ emphasis on sitting and listening (all day!)

Take them for a check

One of the biggest fears as a parent is that our child is ‘abnormal’, and we wonder what that will mean for the rest of his life.

As a social worker, I used to work with a parent who was afraid of having the child labelled as having ‘autism’. She was afraid that would affect his education.

But often, that can be the kindest thing you do for your child. Would you rather an academically ‘successful’ child, or a happy child?

Of course, we do know that here in Singapore, it can be difficult to get an assessment. Usual waiting times at the likes of KK Hospital might be 3 months. You are desperate for some help.

You might consider places like Care Corner’s Early Intervention services, which provides learning support for your child.

More than that, it also helps you, as the parent, to better understand your child, and how to support your child.

You’re not alone, if you’re only willing to reach out.Care corner educational therapy service

Don’t miss this time

Often when we go through this phase as parents, we wonder when it will ever be over.

And kudos to you, you’ve gotten here. To the terrible threes.

You’ve gone way past the times when you struggled to know if you were even bringing the right things to the hospital.

You’ve passed the sleepless nights when your child was an infant.

You’ve helped your child walk his first steps.

Remember those moments. Anchor yourself in those moments, because this is another phase in your child’s development.

You’re doing your best, and that’s all that is needed.



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