I have two very tried and tested methods of dealing with temper tantrums and I am happy to say that they have been very successful.
Imagine the scenario..a young child kicking his arms and legs about, wailing at top of his lungs and not paying any heed to "please be quiet..please calm down." In my experience, it is impossible to make a child forget his tantrum by saying, "please be quiet." Their volume will only go up and their manner worsen.
My method: I usually look at the child with great deal of interest with eyes wide open but say nothing. The child will soon look at you to see why you are not reacting....
Then I ask, "is this a new poem/song you have learned at school. It sounds very lovely. Can you teach me the lyrics too.?."By this time the child will probably be laughing at the absurd idea and would have forgotten all about his tantrum. This works best when a tantrum is in its early stages.
My other and even more successful method...just walk away and deprive your child of any audience and his tantrum will stop AT ONCE. When a young child misbehaves, he is only seeking attention.
I usually tell my children, "this type of behavior is not acceptable. Please come and talk to me when you are behaving in a better manner" and then I busy myself with a book, newspaper or kitchen work or I just walk out of the room. 9 out of 10 times, the child will follow you in a much calmer manner.
This way, I have been able to teach my kids that I will not tolerate temper tantrums in my house. My three older ones know that there is nothing to be achieved with howling, bawling, whining or crying. If they want something..they have to ask in a clear voice and a NO by either mom or dad, means a NO.
But I always make a point of asking my children what they would like to have or given an opportunity where they would like to go and then try to get them those things Even if it does take time, my children know that promises will be kept. So I believe that firm discipline and communication act as barriers against tantrums.
One more thing, for a very small child, just scoop him up and take him in front of a mirror. No child can cry while looking at his own image in the mirror. Try this:-)