How to Deal with 1 Year Old Tantrums

Tantrums are common, but when they start at just a year old, it can be concerning for parents. Learn about potential causes and strategies for managing 1 year old tantrums here.

1 Year Old Tantrums

This can’t be right, I thought. Are 1 year olds supposed to have tantrums already?

I was expecting tantrums much later, during the Terrible Twos everyone talked about. I didn’t even know 1 year olds could have tantrums. Except here I was with my son, who wasn’t even a year old yet, when I first saw glimpses of a tantrum.

It’s never easy dealing with tantrums, but more so when they come much earlier than you expected. The fussiness your child had as a baby has morphed into screaming on his tummy, turning red in the face, and kicking and flailing his limbs. In other words, a full-blown fit.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Although tantrums are more common among 2 year olds, they can still happen at various ages. 

Although my son’s angry outbursts caught me off guard, I learned valuable lessons on how to discipline a 1 year old. These tips—unlike those for older kids—take into account your child’s young age. Below, I’ll share tools to prevent and handle them when they happen.

Let’s take a look:

Focus on calming your child down

When your 1 year old throws a tantrum, it’s easy to launch into “strict mode.” Maybe you dive straight into why he can’t do this or that or try to explain the teachable moments he can learn from the experience. Sometimes you might even lose your temper and raise your voice.

The thing is, tantrums are no time to scold and teach. When he’s flailing his arms and screeching his head off, the last thing he’s able to do is listen, much less learn from the moment.

Save the lessons and consequences for later and instead calm him down first. You could sit him on your lap, hold him in a tight hug, reassure him with calming words, rock him side to side, or show empathy for what he’s frustrated about.

He can’t listen to logical words you’re saying when he’s still throwing a tantrum. Use this opportunity to reassure him you’re still here, that he’s in a safe place, and that you understand.

Not only are you modeling how he can calm down, but you’re also less likely to fly off the handle and make hasty decisions you might regret.

Now, this doesn’t mean you’re letting him have what he wants or that calming him down is a reward. Showing compassion and empathy doesn’t enable misbehavior. In fact, it’s during these times he needs it the most.

Let’s say he has a full-blown fit every time you change his diaper and you’re worried that calming him down means you’re giving in. Enabling the behavior would be not changing his diaper because he threw a fit.

Instead, you might say, “I know it’s tough, and we’re going to do our best to make it easier. How about you hold this toy while I change your diaper? I’ll make sure to get the diaper and wipe ready so it’s quick. I’ll do my super-fast changing diaper move, that way you can play right after…”

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“I often get upset when my 1 year old cries. He gets very upset and is quite sensitive, but instead of trying to ‘fix’ things for him, I just sat with him, rocked him, and hugged him, and he was ok. It took longer than how I was doing it before, but it was actually a nice bonding experience as I felt I was comforting and helping him through the things bothering him. Thanks for the advice.” -Gemma P.

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Don’t give in to unreasonable demands

Dealing with tantrums seems to have a quick fix: give your child what he wants so he’ll stop crying about it.

In some cases, this is true: he might be hungry and need a snack or he wants his special lovey and will quiet down once he has it in his hands.

But tantrums don’t always go away even after obliging his requests. He might throw another fit about something else or even reject the snack or lovey he had been so adamant about.

You see, I thought giving my son what he asked for would do the trick. Instead, if it wasn’t one thing, it was something else—he always found yet another reason to throw a fit.

I then learned that it’s useless to continue giving in to unreasonable demands. And unreasonable they were—at one point, he was in tears because I wouldn’t let him knock down a lamp.

Instead of obliging your child, focus on calming him down, showing empathy and keeping him safe. Giving in to requests only sets off on an endless cycle that will never make him happy.

Let’s say he wants you to hold him during dinner and throws a fit when you won’t. You could start by helping him calm down and holding him somewhere else besides the dining table. Then, once he’s calmed down, explain that it’s time for dinner and that you can’t hold him while you eat.

Let him know you could snuggle after dinner, but for now, he can either join you and eat at the table or come when he’s ready. But one thing is certain: you’re going to eat dinner right now and will be able to hug him afterward. Show that “you’ve got this” and won’t get unnerved by his tantrums.

That way, he knows you’re there for him, but that you also have other things to do, including making sure you get to eat. Stand your ground and follow through so he knows to take your word.

Talk about your child’s feelings at his level

Unlike you and I, kids have no idea what feelings are, why they exist, or if they’ll go away. You can imagine how overwhelming this can be,

This is when talking to your child about feelings comes in handy. Yep, even starting as young as a year old.

Here’s an analogy: Imagine coming down with an ailment you’ve never experienced. You go to your doctor to get it checked out, and she says, “Ah yes, that’s called such and such, and it’s pretty common among people your age. Here’s the treatment.” You breathe a sigh of relief, right?

But if your doctor says, “Hmm, I’ve never seen this. Let me ask my colleagues to see what they think and dig up more research for you,” you come home not quite so reassured.

Using words gives your child that reassurance so he knows this feeling is normal and experienced by everyone else. Labeling also adds another benefit: you’re teaching him the words he can learn and use down the line.

After all, one of the biggest triggers for tantrums is his inability to express himself clearly. He might have separation anxiety or feel frustrated when he can’t solve a puzzle. Imagine how many tantrums you can avoid if he’s able to say “mad” or “sad.”

Given his young age, it’s best to use simple words. Stick to simple ones he can use. “Sad” is much easier to say than “disappointed.” You can use both, but emphasize easy words he can say as well.

Admit your own limitations

Sometimes kids get frustrated because we can’t understand what they’re saying. After all, as savvy as we are with guessing and filling in the blanks, communication can get lost when dealing with a 1 year old.

Your best bet? Admit you’re having a hard time understanding the problem. You might say, “I’m sorry I can’t understand what it is you’re trying to tell me.”

Acknowledging your own limitations forces you to work together to find the solution she feels so angry about. Work with her to see what she’s trying to say. You can ask, “Can you point to what you want?” or “Do you want the ball you were playing with?”

Even if you can’t figure out what she’s saying, you’re at least trying to see things from her perspective. You’re also likely to be more patient when you can see how difficult it is for her to communicate.

And lastly, praise her when you’re able to resolve the issue. She learns that this is the way she can express herself instead of throwing a fit.

Meet your child’s basic needs

Sometimes we think our kids are being dramatic, shaking our heads at some of the reasons they throw a fit.

But other times, your child might have a valid reason for her tantrums. Maybe she’s been overlooked so much that she erupts in a rage or feels overcome with intense emotions that are difficult to cope with.

Dig deep and ask yourself why she’s behaving this way and, based on your guesses and assumptions, respond appropriately. By meeting her needs, you can lower the intensity of the tantrum. For instance, is she…

  • Overstimulated? The environment can overstimulate 1 year olds compared to older kids. Could the sights and sounds be too much for her? Is she getting overwhelmed with all the people at the party? If so, carry her to a different, quieter part—a simple change in environment can be all she needs to calm down.
  • Hungry? Everyone gets cranky when they’re hungry, and 1 year olds are no exception. Think back to the last time she ate. Has it been a while?
  • Sleepy and tired? Being kept awake far too long between naps can take a toll. While it’s unlikely she’ll go straight to sleep in the middle of a tantrum, you can still help her rest and keep activities to a minimum. See if she’ll lay on you for a quick rest to ease the fatigue, especially away from the hustle of a busy environment.

Prevent the tantrums in the first place

While we can’t erase tantrums completely, we can reduce their intensity or frequency. Here are a few ideas:

  • Make transitions easier. Tantrums often happen because your child struggles with stopping one activity to go to another. Give him plenty of time to do the first activity as well as a “heads up” that you’re about to shift into a new one. And highlight the benefits of the new activity—your body language and tone of voice can get him excited about the change.
  • Have a predictable daily routine for your 1 year old. Kids thrive on schedules and predictability. Keep your key “pillars” of the day (eating, sleeping, and playing) consistent. Do them at the same times and in the same order so he knows what to expect and will be less likely to resist.
  • Offer age-appropriate toys and activities. My son threw a fit because he couldn’t figure out a toy that was more suited for his older brother. As much as we should challenge kids, some toys and activities are more likely to get them frustrated.
  • Encourage communication. The more words your child hears and says, the less frustrated he’ll feel. Even if he can’t say many words right now, encourage simple communication such as pointing. And don’t disregard his grunts and sounds, especially since that’s how he can communicate for now.
  • Offer choices. Having a say in the matter can help him follow what you’re asking. Let’s say he threw a car seat tantrum. The next time, you can ask, “Do you want to get in by yourself, or do you want me to carry you?” Or “Would you want to snack on crackers or a cheese stick?”
Daily Routine for 1 Year Old

Frequently asked questions

Why do 1 year olds have tantrums?

One year olds can feel overwhelmed by new and strong emotions and are too young to understand concepts that seem simple to us. They might also get frustrated because they’re trying to communicate but can’t express themselves or be clearly understood.


For many parents, the shock of seeing intense emotions at such a young age can come as a surprise. Tantrums can happen early, but at least now you have the tools to deal with them—even when they come earlier than the Terrible Twos.

Get more tips:

how to handle your 1 year old's tantrums

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  1. Markida Days says:

    This was a great article! I made sure to save it in my Pinterest and I’ll try to order it in the future.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Thanks, Markida! Glad to hear it.

  2. My one-year old has a full blown fit almost every time we change his clothes or diaper. He flails around and makes it very difficult. If I stop to comfort him wouldn’t that be giving in and letting him have what he wants? I have no idea what to do.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Hi Kerri! Not necessarily. Showing compassion and empathy don’t enable misbehavior—in fact it’s during these times they need it the most. Enabling the behavior would be not changing his diaper because he threw a fit.

      I would give it a try: the next time you need to change his diaper, start it off with a positive note and show empathy: “I know we’ve been fighting about changing diapers these days. I’d be upset too if I had to do something I didn’t want to do…” Never mind that he’s only one-year-old, as children are very attuned to non-verbal communication and sense what you’re saying and feeling.

      If he starts to cry, hold him in your arms and show compassion: “I know it’s tough for you, and we’re going to do our best to make it easier, okay? How about you hold this toy while I change your diaper. I’ll make sure to get the diaper and wipe already ready so it’s fast. I’ll do my super fast changing diaper move, that way you can play right after…”

  3. great article. My Son just turned 1 like 3 weeks ago and I can already see a change frm baby to toddler.
    Just yesterday he had his full blown fit in front of someone new. He was plesant for the most part but it was like a timer in his mind clicked- And nothing i could do to calm him. I can tell he was over stimulated (my 10yr old niece was over) and it was getting towards his bed time and he needed his last bottle. I proceed to give him the bottle, he pushed it away… i gave him a pacifier (we jsut stopped pacifiers but only for emergency calming).. and he threw it on the floor…he walked into a corner in my kitchen with his arms straight down and feet stomping… i NEVER experienced this, hes always such a pleasant boy..and i was starting to feel my visitors eyes roll (a non parent). I held him, walked upstairs away from everyone and rocked him to calm and he just kept crying. My visitor decided it was time to leave at that point, and the baby cried for about 20 mins straight, making himself get louder and louder each time. I placed him in his crib just so he can be by himsef and realize if he doesnt want anything then he can just be by himself, and it worked for a moment…until I went to check up on him…he started to reach for me.
    I held him, and he calmed down finally..and then he wanted his bottle.
    I woke up this morning feeling a little scared and defeated as a mom, there was a moment i almost lost my cool but I didnt. I started to think- god i hope this isnt “a thing”…but this morning he woke up fine, still a little cranky…but went back to his old self.
    Any thoughts? advice? would love to hear.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Hi Erica!

      Everything you said was spot on—he was likely overtired, hungry, and over-stimulated. Keep in mind that when you and I have had a long day, we know what makes us feel better and know we have a choice to make it happen. We can also tell other people how we feel. Young kids however don’t have this ability yet, so it comes out as tears and tantrums. It’s especially hard when we have visitors (the SAME thing happened to me when I had two friends visit and they didn’t have kids yet at that point—my son cried for an HOUR, practically most of the time they were there). Having visitors distracts us from focusing completely on our kids, making the tantrum potentially last longer, and it’s unfamiliar territory for them as well.

      I think so long as you continue to hold him and show empathy for how he’s feeling, you’ll be fine. This will likely happen again, so rest assured that you’re not doing anything “wrong.” We all have our ups and downs, and the one key message I tell myself when my kids throw fits is that this is exactly when they need me the most. It grounds me so that everything I do is intended to help them, whether it’s to calm down, to learn about emotions, to better communicate, etc. I want to be there for them to teach them these things.

      One thing that definitely helps when kids are in this situation is to rely less on “left brain” communication and more on “right brain.” Lots of non-verbal communication like body language, hugs, soothing phrases, facial expressions, calming tone of voice, etc vs trying to talk logic into them. The logic and explaining can come later once he’s calmed down, but for now, try to help him calm down and feel reassured that his feelings are valid and heard.

      xo, Nina

  4. This is some great advice and very glad I found your website. All of this info will come in handy for me and I have learned a lot from it. Which was very much needed because It’s exactly what I’ve been experiencing. Also, will most definitely use these tools to get me through the tantrums my grand daughter has now that I understand what might be the reasons and how to work through them.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Thanks Teena, I’m glad you’re here!

  5. Well said, this was a very useful and positive. I have been so worried that my child is picking up behavior like tantrums from other babies at day care and family members his age. To what extent does other toddlers behaviors have on my child? Can seeing tantrums and negative feelings have a very bad effect on him and change how he grows as a person? I realize I can’t keep him from being around others, all I can do is be a good role model for him by staying calm positive loving.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Thanks Aaron! Picking up other kids’ behavior is common, though so long as you reinforce your own expectations and values at home, your child can develop an “internal gauge” of what he should and shouldn’t do.

  6. My son is almost 15months and has been throwing tantrums to what i believe for no reason. Even within 10 min of walking. I can’t seem to calm him, by speaking comforting, or trying to hold him, talking to him. He just keeps screaming. I tried the sit in a chair and count to 20 and he screams and tries to get out the chair. i try and let him out of his room and he just will continue to scream. I tried saying to him softly hes having a timeout and leave him in his room for a few minutes, and will enter and try and speak softly something like” we don’t need to scream everything is ok ” and hug him, it barley works and sometimes just goes right back screaming. Then i try and sit with him in the living room to play and he runs from me and still wants to scream. I really don’t know what else i can do. But i can only handle so much screaming and not being able to do something to help.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Big hugs, Kristy! Tantrums at this age can be so tough because they’re not able to communicate clearly, or even understand what emotions are. Processing events and scenarios aren’t as simple or logical as it can be for you and me as it is for our little ones. If it feels like he erupts over every little thing, focus less on trying to “stop” the tantrum and instead on being calm and present for him, no matter what. This might mean not even talking at all, or just being present and nearby if he refuses to let you hold him. Show empathy for how he must be feeling, even if it’s over “petty” things that kids fuss about. If talking is too much for him, don’t say anything at all, or say something soothing like “Mama’s here, mama’s here…” as a calming mantra for him.

      When he’s in this state, he can’t process anything logical, including words, so body language, facial expression, and calming mantras and tone of voice are what can better help him calm down. And most important, focus on how YOU feel and the emotions you’re portraying: if you’re anxious, impatient, or frustrated, that will only lead him to feel the same. So it’s less about getting him to stop feeling that way as it is about managing your own behavior, which trickles out to him.

      Either way, know that you’re not alone, Kristy! And that you’re doing a great job. There’s never a “right” answer, and even doing what you’re “supposed” to do sometimes won’t “work,” because we’re human. If it gets too much, know that it’s okay to take a break, calm yourself down, and deal with it later. And that these tantrums aren’t a sign that you’ve failed or somehow done something wrong. It’s simply your little one taking his first steps to practice managing his emotions. What better time to learn—now in childhood—than in adulthood when the stakes are higher.

  7. Hi there! My son has been throwing tantrums because he wants me to hold him, and this usually occurs during dinner. I want to help him self regulate, but if I hug him during a tantrum, doesn’t that give him what he wants and won’t that continue the behavior? I understand the calming hugging and rocking approach to all other tantrums, I just don’t know how to be effective in helping him through one like this. Any advice?

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Hi Melissa! It’s rough when they’re crying because they want you to hold them—it leaves you wondering whether you’re supposed to hug them or not. Personally, I would help him calm down, but also to a point, especially since this is becoming a pattern. You could begin by helping him calm down and holding him somewhere else besides the dining table. Once he’s calmed down, explain that it’s time to eat, and that you can’t hold him while you eat. After dinner though, you could spend time snuggling on the bed, but for now he can join you and eat at the table, or go when he’s ready. But one thing is for certain: mama is going to eat dinner right now, and will be with him afterward.

      That way, he knows you’re there for him, but that you also have priorities, including making sure you get to eat and continue with your day. Of course, if this was a random one-off, I’d focus more on calming him down and holding him, but it sounds like it’s become a pattern for him, so it’s best to set those expectations and follow through, so that he knows to take your word and what to expect.

  8. I have a 1 year old and every time I try to get her on the car seat she throws a fit and refuses to be tied. I tried talking to her and she just doesn’t calm down. Any tips? Thanks for the great article!

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Hi Alexa!

      It’s definitely rough when they refuse to get into the car seat and have a meltdown. They’re no longer little babies but growing kids who put up a bigger fight! The first place to look is if the car seat is comfortable—it just might be time to adjust it or get a new one. Then, give her something to hold, like a special stuffed animal she gets to hold in the car. You can also try offering choices, like do you want to get in by yourself or do you want me to carry you? Or do you want to snack on crackers or Cheerios?

      Emotionally, try to show empathy, as this is her releasing a lot of energy and perhaps behaving in ways because she can’t understand or process or communicate too well just yet. And lastly, show that “you’ve got this,” or that you won’t get unnerved. If you need to sit in the parking lot for 10 minutes then so be it, just so that she has time to calm down and doesn’t see you breaking down because of her tantrums.

      I hope that helps, Alexa! And I’m glad you liked the article.

  9. Thank you so much for this information! My daughter is going to be one in a couple weeks and the tantrums have started. This last week has been especially hard! I was losing patience and getting so frustrated. This article has given me a new perspective and I’ll definitely be using your methods!

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      I’m so glad the article helped, Mila!

  10. I love all of these suggestions however I feel that when I hold my son and try to calm him he screams louder and gets more aggressive. They’re often out of nowhere for no specific reason. I’m really struggling and worried about him.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Hi Kristen! Yes, sometimes I’ve found that they resist more when we try to hold them. In that case, I respect their space while at the same time, letting them know that I’m still here nearby if they need me.

  11. My one year old throws full on tantrums everytime I’m not holding him. All day long. I’m at my wits end. He screams when I’m eating unless he’s on my lap or the entire time I use the bathroom. I can’t get anything done at the risk of being completely and totally emotionally exhausted by noon….. What do I do?

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Hi Ali! It’s definitely rough when our kids are so attached to us that we can’t do anything without them glued to us. One thing that can help is to keep your days as normal and predictable as possible. Consistent routines can help him feel more assured about his world and not worry about what’s next. Another thing you can do is to treat the times you ARE away from him as completely normal. Try not to project your own frustrations or anxieties on him when he cries, as he then sees this time apart as a “thing” to concern him. Let your demeanor show that he’s totally fine while you’re in the bathroom and that you’ll always come back to him. I hope that helps <3

  12. Bethany Beiro says:

    Hi! This was a very helpful article. My 1 year old grunts or screams in frustration whenever she is told no, and tries to push me away. My first child never had trouble like this so I’m having trouble navigating how I should respond to her outbursts. Do you have any advice for the steps I should take when she yells and pushes after being told no?

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Hi Bethany! It would depend on the situation, like whether something is important (like no, don’t run across the street) or something that’s not (like telling him to stop throwing an item he’s not supposed to). If it’s safety-related, I would hold your ground but other times, try to see what’s really bothering her. Maybe she’s had a long day or is being curious (not naughty) or is trying to decide what will make you mad versus what won’t. Sometimes if we show empathy and try to acknowledge what drove them to behave that way, we can better respond. Another thing I’ll add too is to try to prevent having to say no to begin with. For instance, instead of telling her to stop pressing the remote control buttons, it might be more helpful to not keep the remote control in an area where she can even reach it in the first place. I hope that helps!

  13. What a great article, thank you.

    I plan on trying a few of these next time, but holding him can be very hard as he arches his back and kicks. He’s so strong (14 months).

    I do have a could of questions.

    Tonight, and what seems to be many nights now, he’s hungry and even makes his way to his high chair for dinner when I say dinner is ready, but the second dinner is in front of him, the tantrum starts.

    Took a good 15 mins to calm this one down. It’s food he likes, nothing new either. He doesn’t end up eating it and I give in to giving him yoghurt and fruit in the end just to make sure he’s eaten.

    Seems to only be at dinner time. Breakfast he is great with, lunch can be a but funny but mostly ok.

    As far as I know he’s fine at daycare with meals but I will confirm.

    Also, nappy (diaper) changes. I can usually get the nappy off but I have to pin him down to get a new one on. We’ve done toys, books, grandma and grandpa on facetime, Ms Rachel on my phone. Nothing. Not like I can stop and cuddle when he’s covered in poo!

    Anyway, thank you.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Hi Amy! Dinner time can definitely be rough, especially since it’s the end of the day and everyone’s patience and willpower is lower than at the start. One thing that can help is to offer him choices, both of which you’re okay with. For instance, you might ask him if he wants to sit on the high chair or on the booster. Or ask him if he wants the green or blue fork. Something to help him give his input and hopefully follow through with his choice.

  14. I have a 1 year 2 month old who really gets on my nerves. He cries loudly forcing himself to vomit. He bites, beats, e hits, and throws himself down and does all these sort of things on the flow. I have never experienced tantrums with my first born. So I have no idea how to deal. Especially since I can’t reason with him, he can’t talk, am not sure if he hears and understands what I say since he is that little. How do I deal? He doesn’t sleep well or feed well since he was born. What can I do to prove the tantrums, eating and sleeping?

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      It’s definitely hard when kids this young behave this way, as it can be challenging to communicate and understand. You’re definitely not alone though, and the fact that you’re aware of the issues already is a big step in seeing change.

      It seems like there are a whole lot of things going on, so for the sake of not overwhelming yourself, I’d tackle one or two major behavior issues first and work your way there. For instance, biting vs hitting vs sleep vs eating.

      If he’s not taking to cuddling, just be in his presence as he throws a fit and let him know that you’re there for him. Some kids want personal space and don’t want to be held during a meltdown, and that’s okay. Do as much as you can with compassion and kindness. At the same time, don’t feel like you have to teach or lecture or make it a teachable moment right then and there. That will come with time. For now, focus on “listening” to his gripes, show compassion, and wait for him to calm down.

      Later, once he is, I still encourage you to talk to him about what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior. You’re guiding him and showing him how to behave, more so than scolding or getting upset.

      I hope that helps, Grace! Hang in there, mama. This can get hard, but with each step, we make progress and get better each time 🙂