Newsletter: Parent logic: Temper Tantrums
"Not everything that is faced can be changed. but nothing can be changed until it is faced." -James Baldwin
Our child who is 26 months, has been having temper tantrums and we are not sure what triggers her or what to do about it. The tantrums are exhausting and frightening at times. We are feeling we are terrible parents. I am sure we are not handling the situation properly. How can we prevent the tantrums and/or at best handle them? Joni
Temper tantrums have been one of the biggest sources of frustration and helplessness for parents. Basically there are two types of tantrums, those that are warning signals for underlying disorders and those that are ordinary tantrums. According to new research by Dr. Potegal it was found that, “Screaming and yelling and kicking often go together… “Throwing things and pulling and pushing things tend to go together. Combinations of crying, whining, falling to the floor and seeking comfort — and these also occur together.” Tantrums are a display of anger and getting the child past the peak of anger is key and the most difficult task for the parent. The child in a tantrum has much difficulty processing information. Therefore, even asking questions will fuel the tantrum. Your child is learning to master their world and they do not yet have the tools to vent and deal with their frustration. They are seeking attention, fatigued, hungry, and/or are uncomfortable. They are frustrated. They also may be seeking independence and do not have the skills to achieve this independence. As your child learns self control, communication skills and ability to control their environment, the tantrums will be come less frequent. Typically a child should outgrow having tantrums by the age of 4-5 years old. If the tantrums continue past 5 years old and continue to be severe they may be a sign of more serious mental/behavioral problems or parenting problems. If this is the case it is suggested the parent(s) seek out professional assistance.
The following are some tips to avoiding tantrums
- Try to understand the reason for the temper tantrum. Does your child need comfort? What are they saying in the tantrum? What is happening in their world at the time? Do they need attention? Take note and if you have established they are safe then continue your activities and begin to make changes in your parenting to avoid future tantrums. A tactic that is not rare for parents to report “Breath-Holding Spells”. Do not be alarmed. Your child will breathe again automatically, even if they pass out.
- Generally do not leave the room if your child is under 4 years old. This may cause abandonment and fear issues that will complicate the tantrum. Children older than pre-school may use tantrums to get attention. At this age the can be sent to their room as an appropriate consequence.
- Choose your battles with your child. If it isn’t necessary or important then do not give it attention and your child will soon not give it attention.
- Establish a parenting plan that recognizes positive behaviors so that your child doesn’t learn that any attention is better than no attention.
- Keep off limit toys, objects or food items out of reach and sight to reduce a power struggles occurring.
- Give your child age appropriate control over their world with appropriate boundaries and limits will allow them to learn independence. Limiting and offering appropriate choices such as, “would you like to have an apple or carrots for a snack?” or “do you want me to read this book or this book to you at bed time?” This gives them choices with limits reducing frustration and allows them to feel a sense of independence. Too many choices without boundaries leads to frustration and insecurity.
- Under your supervision allow your child to master new tasks and keeping the tasks age appropriate so they can achieve success within a few tries.
- Children under 5 years old have short attention spans so utilizing distraction and diversion can reduce frustration. Even changing the environment such as taking them to a different room in the house or taking them outside when they are inside can help ward off frustration.
- Be familiar with your child’s limits such as when they get sleepy or hungry. Avoid pushing your child past their limits. Giving them structure such as bed times, meal times, etc., and being consistent will help them to develop impulse and self control.
- Stay calm, don’t make it personal and keep it simple by not allowing your own frustration to get in the way. Be consistent and above all be realistic in your responses.
- Do not reward your child or negotiate with your child in order to stop the tantrum or for stopping the tantrum. This will only teach them to have a tantrum to get a reward or that negotiating is a means to get what they want. Take notice of how the tantrum is working for your child and reverse the “reward” they are getting.
- Only reward their choice to calm down and reverse their tantrum behaviors. Reward with verbal praise and physical hugs rather than material objects, food or activities.
- Do not label your child during or after the tantrum. Using adjectives such as “bad girl or boy” or making fun of your child by calling him/her demeaning names can
only result in fueling the tantrum.
- When your child is not in the middle of a tantrum, teach your child to use feeling words. Teach your child ways to calm themselves. Notice and praise their good behavior choices.
- BE A ROLE MODEL. Your child will reflect your behavior back to you through their behavior. Modeling how you want your child to behave is the first line to
These are only a few tactics that can be used. I would suggest you do your own research and educate yourself with positive parenting. It is always helpful to seek out professional help for reassurance and or direction.
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