Tantrums: Normal for Five-Year-Old?

My son will be five soon. He throws uncontrollable temper tantrums where he will scream for hours. Time-out does not work. We have tried behavior charts and consequences, and nothing works long-term. Is this abnormal behavior?


Tantrums and other forms of angry outbursts are not uncommon for young children. As children become more proficient in communicating, they typically outgrow some of the behaviors that frustrate parents, caregivers and teachers, such as biting, screaming and throwing tantrums. By the time children reach elementary school, these behaviors become increasingly rare and may only appear in extreme situations.

It would be appropriate for you to seek some professional help for your family. Not only would your son benefit from counseling, but it may be helpful for you to learn some techniques that you can use to diffuse the tantrums. Marriage and family counselors are equipped to help your family uncover the reasons for the behavior and can subsequently help you figure out how to eradicate it. Your son's behavior seems quite volatile and should be addressed as soon as possible in order to give your family life a sense of normalcy.

This might be a good opportunity for you to reflect on your son's behavior. Think about occasions where he has had tantrums. Was he tired? Had he taken any medication? Does he only have tantrums with you, or does he erupt around others as well? You may want to write down any details that you can recall about those occasions, including the time of day, foods he had eaten and the specific event that set off the tantrum. This information may be helpful to you and a therapist as you attempt to help your young son.

My final thoughts rest on the general rhythm of your son's life. Does he seem happy? Does he have friends in his peer group? What kinds of activities does he participate in? Does he seem stressed or unnecessarily worried? Have there been recent changes in your family dynamics or living situation?

Consider your son's attitude toward himself and others. While it may not be readily apparent, there may be an underlying emotion that he is acting out with these tantrums.

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