Ask any mother about a temper tantrum and she will immediately tell you all about it. It is an experience that she dreads because when it happens it is usually very embarrassing and frustrating at the same time. It is important to know that tantrums are normal and a part of the child development. You may feel that you are doomed from your first experience with one, but they will grow out of it sooner than you expect.
So, what exactly is a temper tantrum, how can we deal with it, and can it be avoided?
A tantrum is an uncontrolled outburst of anger and frustration, typically in a young child. It’s a form of communication the child uses to convey his anger or frustration. They can begin as early as 10 months and last until the age of 5, with 2 being the peak tantrum time due to language development.
Tantrums are most commonly seen as:
1) Loud whining and screaming
2) Rushing into a place wild and yelling
3) Knocking down everything that lies in their way
4) Crashing into walls or heavy furniture
5) Lying on the floor kicking and screaming 6) Make themselves throw up7) Hold their breath until they turn blue.
Why temper tantrums?
1) When they feel any kind of discomfort caused by feeling: scared, frustrated, insecure, tired, insignificant and unnoticed, sick, hungry or thirsty.
2) Feeling powerless with no control over their lives (being forced to eat what the parents want them to eat, go where the parents want them to go and act like the parents want them to act)
3) Feeling incapable because they fell short of their own expectations of themselves. Their expectations usually exceed their actual capabilities.
4) When they can’t get their way with something and get told no.
5) Sometimes physical problems, language delays, or a learning disability can make kids more likely to have tantrums.
Each child can respond differently, according to the situation. Here are some suggestions to help you when dealing with one:
- Hold them tightly and comfort them. Validate their feelings by saying: “It’s okay to be upset. I’m here for you and l love you.”
- Other children don’t want to be held and will firmly resist. Sit close to them and simply give emotional support without touching. Tell them;” I know you feel angry because you didn’t get what you want, I’d would feel angry too. We can talk when you calm down”. Wait until it’s over.
- Simply ignore it. Stand quietly and wait till it is over. Keep a neutral look on your face if you can, but if you can’t it’s definitely better to look away.
- -Sometimes you need to act immediately by taking your child outside and sitting in the car. Tell them it’s okay to be upset and to try again when they calm down. Tell them they’ll have one more chance before you leave and go home.
- Distractions work best with young children.
- Ask your child after they calm down about using his words to request things instead of actions. You can also ask what they’d like you to do when they get a tantrum: hug, wait, go to another place etc. Whatever you decide, just be sure to follow through with consistency.
- When they calm down, you can start talking together about what made them angry. Listen to the child carefully and with empathy (not sympathy).
- Avoid reacting to anger with anger or to aggression with aggression, which will result in more anger and probably more tantrums.
- Be kind but assertive without lecturing, blaming or emotionally abusing them. Stay consistent because children can be manipulative if they see that your rules can be broken.
- Focus on solutions, not punishment. Punishment might stop the behavior for a while but it won’t solve the problem.
- Use limited choices with young children instead of telling them what to do. Give them options and let them choose.”Would you like to brush your teeth before or after taking a bath?”
- Model respectful ways of dealing with your anger, as children mirror our behavior.
- Give plenty of positive attention so they don’t seek your attention in a negative way. Catch them while they are doing something good and praise them for it.
- Hitting the child isn’t ok because it sends the message to your child that physical aggression is acceptable.
- If tantrum related behavior becomes completely out of control, don’t hesitate to have your child’s behavior evaluated by a doctor.
Tips to avoid tantrums:
- Keep a regular and predictable schedule of mealtimes, naptimes and bedtimes. This makes them feel more secure, in control and comforted because they know what to expect next.
- If your child is hungry, tired or simply bored, it is not the best decision to take them with you to run errands.
- If your child is bored in the car, play games together such as peek-a-boo, I spy, sing songs, act silly and laugh out loud to elevate his mood.
- Cut down on the need to say “no” by childproofing your home as much as possible so you don’t constantly say: “Don’t touch”, “Leave this”& “Leave that”.
- Limit the amount of time spent on screens, especially any aggressive cartoons or games.
- Work on your expectations! Set realistic expectations to your child’s attention span according to their age. On average, a four year old can hold focus for a maximum of 5 minutes. Discuss what behavior is expected for each new situation.
- Keep a toy or a book that your child likes handy, in case you need to distract or entertain them.
- Don’t promise treats or toys as a bribe if they behave well.
Remember, this is only a phase that will pass as soon as your child learns other ways to express their feelings.