Expert horrified that “many parents think toddler tantrums are the perfect excuse for treating kids badly.”

Dr Justin Coulson recently appeared on the TODAY show offering his advice on how to best handle a toddler tantrum.

Dr Justin shares the five reasons toddlers usually throw a tantrum:


toddler tantrum

The instinct to ignore a toddler is the worst thing you can do. Dr Justin is a big believer in hugging it out.

Offer your child a hug to help console them and calm them down.

If you can’t offer a hug let them know you are there when they are ready to calm down and do not leave them alone.

When the tantrum occurs in public try and distract them from the item they are fighting for and turn the discussion around.  Let them know you understand why they are upset but we can’t always get what they want.

Going by the response on TODAY facebook page not everyone agrees with Dr Justin’s method.

Comments include:

– “What a load of ….. Giving a hug to a child while they are showing anti-social behaviour? Way to reinforce that behaviour! No wonder he says the tantrum stage lasts so long. And people wonder why there seems to be so many badly behaved children around? No wonder if they are following this type of advice!”

– “Nothing wrong with a good old fashioned slap. Just like you would check your dog. Grrrrr, so over these so called experts !!??”

– “Say NO for one and a smack on the rump never hurt anyone.. children of today get away with murder, they are the child you are the adult, remember that…”

– “Good bloody smack sorts it out for my kids, they have never broken any rules and ask if they can do something that wasn’t allowed… grow a pair and act like parents instead of treating them like pets.”

– “Rewarding them for bad behaviour umm not very smart, like he said their brains are only developed to understand what they want now so your teaching them it’s ok to have tantrums when they don’t get what they want this can only end up with teenagers still having tantrums at age 16 no matter how many hugs you give them I have seen it many times.”

Not everyone disagrees though:

– “This absolutely works. My child was a shocker for years and one day I said to him ‘I can see your so upset. Do you need a mummy cuddle?”

– “Unreal! I always gave my kids a hug when they were upset which didn’t lead to a tantrum. If they have your attention and affection they usually are well behaved.”

– “This makes sense. Toddlers are unable to communicate what they want properly, & they have no idea what to do with all these big emotions coming with developmental changes etc.”

– “Consistency is the key. Remain calm and in control. If you say no mean no. Your child wont have big melt downs because they know it’s not how they get what they want.”

– “I actually agree with this and have done it myself when my daughter is losing the plot. It works. Then once they are calm you can get to the bottom of the problem.”

– “Fantastic advice. A hug works so well on my son, as frustrated and annoyed I am while he’s screaming and throwing himself around, I try to think from his level ‘I’m frustrated, I’m upset,’ and offer a hug.
99% of the time a hug works.”

– “I have done this with my daughter, we take deep breathes and breathe it out and yes it works. But not every child is the same. It won’t work on every child.”

Dr Justin has shared his disappointment saying, “A few days ago I was on the TODAY show and talked about toddler tantrums. The Channel 9 Facebook page went into meltdown over what I said… apparently many parents think toddler tantrums are the perfect excuse for treating kids badly.”

Dr Justin added, “Amazed at how many people disagree with the idea that if your toddler is tantrumming that you should hold and love them!

“The comments from people have astounded me. Where does this idea come from that if a child is upset we should hit them or isolate them? As if that’s going to make them feel better.”

“Seems to me that there’s a bunch of parents out there who just want to justify their bad behaviour by defending the indefensible.”
(We’ve all made mistakes… I’m not finger-pointing here. But let’s get it right for the kids!)”

“Anyhow, I only shared 90 seconds of the whole clip. If you’d like to see it all and get the context – and the fun – take a look here:”

What do you think of this advice?

Share your comments below.

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  • We’ve tried this and it works for my strong willed child. Even if he’s being naughty, I remove him and place him in his room and sit with him, not talking. If he’s having trouble calming down I will silently hold out my arms for a hug and most times he will take it and calm down. Then when he’s calm, we will talk about the bad behaviour and why we wanted him to stop. I find this way we can actually teach him about unacceptable behaviours. We found other than this way it was leading to us spanking him and that was getting us nowhere, and I don’t actually like spanking kids. We have a few zero tolerance policies like kicking, hitting, spitting which we will automatically put him in his room for time out (and we tell him this is why he’s in his room) before a 4 min timeout. Then we ask him to apologise for the zero tolerance behaviour. Often he’s very upset but he has to apologise first and then we hug him. I don’t think it is a reward for bad behaviour but you have to use it in an appropriate way to make it a meaningful interaction for learning.


  • I think it depends on the situation. If my boys were throwing a tantrum because they couldn’t have something after we said no, a tap on the behind stopped them. At the same time if they were acting up for no reason we could understand, a hug and a little one on one talking worked. All situations need different solutions


  • A sharp NO works wonders, especially if the child gets the same reaction every time.


  • I don’t agree with smacking, but sometimes a sharp word can work wonders.


  • Every child will respond differently to different ways of dealing with a tantrum. My son only needs me to raise my voice and he pulls his head in. I think it comes down to just make sure you are parenting your child! Be the adult, say No and dont let the child control every situation.


  • I would certainly not smack a toddler with a tantrum.


  • I do not and will never ever agree with smacking. We always talk – smacking teaches children nothing. Violence is not accepted in any form in our household.


  • I really don’t think smacking a trantuming child achieves anything. I’m a time out mum. Tantrums are just too much emotion and no way to express it. So he sits alone for a couple of minutes then we calmly talk about it. Working so far.

    • I agree with your technique and it is one we have always employed. Time out and calm heads must prevail when dealing with tantrums.


  • Each to their own. Parents all parent in different way. Try what’s best for your family.


  • I agree with the expert! I would never smack a child or leave him alone while having a tantrum. My first concern would always be to calm the child down.


  • Some parents might find smacking works to get the child to immediately stop the behaviour and maybe even prevent it happening again. I try not to judge, but I do inwardly wince every time I see a child being smacked and/or ignored.
    I have noticed when my 2.5 year old has a tantrum, if I get on her level, gently talk to her about what set off the tantrum and offer a cuddle, she usually settles pretty quickly. Hubby isn’t so gentle, he has yelled at her for a tantrum and without fail always makes it worse.


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