How to deal with adult tantrums

Paul Lines By Paul Lines, 28th Oct 2010 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Health>Mind & Spirit>Mental Health

Tantrums are not solely the domain of children, but dealing with adult tantrums is not always easy

The problem of tantrums

There is a tendency for most people to believe that tantrums are the domain of children, but this is an inaccurate perception. Temper tantrums often continue into adult life, and few adults are immune from them to a lesser or greater degree. For example, how many times have each of us been so upset by something that has happened that we storm away in anger, slamming doors behind us, or at least felt the urge too do so? The real question is, if we are faced with an adult having a temper tantrum what is the best way to deal with this situation.

The art of dealing with adult tantrums will differ dependent upon whether one is experiencing it in a public environment, where the person having the tantrum is a stranger or not closely connected, or if the tantrum is occurring within a relationship.

Tantrums in public

Adult tantrums in public can be unpleasant and embarrassing for those who are witnessing it. For example, unfortunately retail employees are often subjected to the wrath of customers who may be upset about the quality or standard of a particular product. The same situation also often occurs in service industries such as travel. No doubt, we have all witnessed the angry traveller at the airport check-in, who is having a tantrum because a flight has been delayed or, despite the fact that it is the passenger who is late, the clerk cannot let them through for boarding.

In a public scene like this, dealing with an adult tantrum requires a lot of restraint and patience from the person being targeted, who often has no direct control over what has caused the incident. The art of diffusing a tantrum situation is for the person dealing with the customer to remain calm and try to reason with them. If it appears that his or her efforts to calm the customer are not succeeding, the next course of action is to call someone with more authority, such as a manager, who is possibly better trained in the art of anger management.

Employees in a customer facing position should not have to accept abuse from the customer under any circumstances, whether verbally or physically. If it appears that the tantrum might escalate to this position which could be dangerous for the employee the customer should politely be asked to leave or, if they refuse to obey this request, security or police should be called.

Tantrums in the family

Adult tantrums in a family or relationship environment are potentially more dangerous than those that occur in public, and must be dealt with in a manner that ensures there is no reoccurrence. Whilst there are bound to be moments of angry exchanges in even the most placid of relationships from time to time, when those moments of anger spill over into tantrums they can, if not diffused quickly, lead to domestic abuse.
As with all tantrums, it is best for the other partner to try to approach the situation calmly rather than react with equal anger, although this is often easier said than done.

Many times this can lead to a dissipation of the tantrum and a return to normality. As is the case with children, adult tantrums are often caused by the person's failure to get their own way, usually over something quite petty. Giving in to demands of this nature is never the best option as it could lead to an increase in tantrums in the future because the adult in question will come to learn that this is a way they can control you. The approach to take is first to try to reason with the person having the tantrum, without just giving in to his or her demands. If this does work, or the tantrum becomes worse and you fear it may lead to verbal or physical abuse, you should remove yourself from the environment until the person has calmed down.

If an adult around you, such as a partner or spouse, is prone to tantrums, it is important to discuss this with them in calmer periods. Especially if there is a fear that the tantrums could lead to abuse of some nature, it needs to be made quite clear that, unless they seek help in terms of their anger management, you will need to consider whether it is safe for you, and your children if you have them, to remain in the relationship. However much you love the person having a tantrum, physical abuse against you or the children can never be tolerated and the person who has the tantrum should be left in no doubt about this. If that person really loves you they will agree to get help. If not, then maybe you need to consider ending the relationship, both to protect yourself and your children from harm.

To summarise

The major problem with an adult tantrum is how to diffuse the situation. Similar to children's tantrums, unless calmed these tantrums can become almost uncontrollable. With an adult, this can have dangerous consequence, as is often reported in instances of attacks on shop staff and with domestic violence. If trying to calm the person having the tantrum has no effect, then one has to call in people in authority, such as senior management or security personnel. In the case of a domestic situation, the partner being the target of the tantrum, unless able to mollify their partner should remove him or herself from a potentially dangerous environment and not return until the adult in question has agreed to seek help for anger management.


Adulthood, Anger, Anger Management, Behaviors, Tantrums

Meet the author

author avatar Paul Lines
Having spent a large part of my working life as a business consultant, I am now a full time freelance writer offering content for on-line and print publishers, as well as focusing on creative writing

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