Handling Your Child’s Temper Tantrum

Handling Your Child's Temper Tantrum

A tantrum is an emotional outburst, usually associated with children or those in emotional distress, that is typically characterized by stubbornness, crying, screaming, defiance, angry ranting, a resistance to attempts at pacification and, at some cases, hitting. A tantrum may be expressed in a tirade: a protracted, angry, or violent speech.

Tantrums are one of the most common forms of problematic behavior in young children but tend to decrease in frequency and intensity as the child grows older. They may, however, be a predictor of future anti-social behavior.

Unfortunately, tantrums are a fact of life for anyone with young children. They usually start before age two, when children experiment with different ways to communicate with others and to get what they want. Tantrums become more infrequent around age four, but some children continue to “throw fits” for years after that — even into adulthood. Yikes! Don’t worry, though. While tantrums are unavoidable to some extent, you can prevent many of them and help your child learn better coping mechanisms by following some simple steps. This article will help you and your child navigate the tantrum years with your sanity intact.

Here are the steps on how to handle your child’s temper tantrum:

  • Remain calm enough to handle the tantrum properly.
  • Remember that your child’s tantrum is not necessarily a way to “get his way”, but could be the result of frustration, lack of needed attention from you, or even a physical problem, like pain or digestive problems.
  • Offer your child a choice of coping strategies.
  • Stem your own rising frustration level.
  • Try to determine the cause of the tantrum.
  • Do not reward the tantrum.
  • Take steps to prevent injury.
  • Explain to the child that you will talk to him or her when he or she calms down.
  • Avoid trying to reason with any child who is in the middle of a full-blown tantrum, especially in a public place.
  • Discuss the behavior with your child once the tantrum has ended.
  • Do not discipline physically eg by smacking your child. This conveys three unhelpful messages:
    1. That you are out of control.
    2. That hitting is an acceptable behavior.
    3. That feelings should be suppressed and not vented (a toddler is expressing feelings in the only way they are able).

Here are some tips for you to remember when facing your child’s temper tantrums:

  • It should be noted that children with developmental difficulties may not always understand verbal instructions. Children with developmental challenges can sometimes even repeat back the instructions but still have difficulties turning those instructions into actions. If you experience this, try making a visual chart of what you would like to have happen. Cut pictures out of magazines or draw a chart with stick figures and go over it with the child. The child may understand better if he/she can see the pictures in addition to the verbal instructions.
  • Children need both positive and negative reinforcement. While it may be good idea to offer a pack of gum if the child behaves in the checkout line, they also need to understand that a punishment for misbehaving will also be in effect.
  • If you’re in a public place, sometimes the best solution is simply to leave, even if you have to carry your child kicking and screaming. Remain calm, and remember that your child is behaving from a place of huge emotions, not reason.
  • A tantrum is not manipulation unless you let it become that. And often, the tantrum isn’t even really about what just happened most recently; it can be the release of pent-up frustration over days’ worth of the struggles of trying to do the right thing, and learning to be a socialized little person.
  • Final word, never yell at or speak harshly to your child when you want them to stop throwing a tantrum. Explain to them what they are doing, why you do not approve, and suggest another way to express themselves.


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