My 2-year-old son has outbursts of anger when he cannot get his own way, he seems to lose control of himself and will scream, hit and even sometimes bite the person that is stopping him from doing what he wants to do.

He always says sorry for doing it and if he is given a time out he will sit still for it and can give a hug and make up afterwards but it never seems to stop him from doing it again, sometimes just a few minutes later.

Other than this issue he is completely wonderful and we have no other problems with him, he has seen me and his mother argue a few times but nothing violent so I don't know where he has learnt it from.

How can I get him to control his temper enough so that he doesn't lash out at people in this way?

2 Answers 2

  1. Like you said, avoid exemplifying the unwanted behavior as much as you can. Try to have arguments and disagreements in a civilized tone, with positive body language in trying to persuade the other party to your point of view.

  2. Don't make him apologize too much. Cut back on the emphasis of make-ups and "taking damage" from outbursts. In my opinion too much apologizing has 2 problems: 1) apologies become hollow and meaningless, 2) it's ok to do anything as long as I apologize afterward.

  3. Gradually increase your intolerance for the outbursts. This is the hardest part but it's how to stop them, or at least reduce their severity.

So, don't react to his anger with more anger.

Make every effort to help him regain emotional control, to calm down, don't ignore him because he might just go more ballistic.

But don't give him what he wants because he's making this outburst.

He should calm down first, and learn to say what he wants in a calm way. If he should have what he wants, give it to him once he's completely calmed down. If not, then here's where the "infinite patience" comes in -- you have to continue to calm him down without giving him what he wants or "paying him off" with something else. If he's physically fighting, throwing things, immobilize him by hugging or holding onto him, or holding his arms so that he can't hit. This takes some skill. Don't hurt him, but hold him firmly to let him know you mean business, and that this behavior must stop now. Also, say Stop, calm down, and other such phrases in a firm but not mean tone (a parenting tone, if you will), until he relaxes a little.

You can try distracting him or getting him interested in something else, however. But don't buy him off with something special every time he tantrums -- I believe doing that re-inforces the subconscious feedback loop of, "When I throw a tantrum, what I want or something else good will happen."

Tantruming can't be a way to get your way -- otherwise it will just continue.


Patience, patience, and more patience. It sounds to me like you have a wonderful child and are doing everything you can. Stopping him as soon as you see the behavior and explaining to him that it is wrong with as much patience and love as you can muster with time-outs when necessary are the right thing to do in my opinion. You can try to give him some alternatives to hitting and biting and talking things through with the person he is directing his frustration at may help him handle his frustration better in the future.

But right now he is 2 years old and does not always have the skills necessary to express his frustrations in better ways.

I would be thrilled if I could get our 2 year old to apologize, that sounds great. He also bites, pushes, and hits when he gets really upset. I am lucky to have a wife that is very patient and able to calm him down, I do my best, but my wife is much better at it than I am.

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