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All of us have been wit­ness­es to a tem­per tantrum. An infant is cry­ing for a toy. A tod­dler who does­n’t want to take a bath. Or even a pre-school­er who insists on hav­ing the same choco­late pud­ding, as the child sit­ting next to her at lunchtime. As adults, what are we sup­posed to do when kids have these melt­downs that have noth­ing to do with rea­son?. How can we man­age the sit­u­a­tion fair­ly and compassionately?

Definition Of Tantrums

As the name sug­gests, a “tem­per tantrum” is a flare-up of the tem­per. Dur­ing such a tantrum, the emo­tions take over, usu­al­ly because there is some­thing the child wants and isn’t getting. The phys­i­cal man­i­fes­ta­tions of a tantrum may be dra­mat­ic. A child’s face may grow red from scream­ing, cry­ing, kick­ing, and flail­ing. Dur­ing tantrums, chil­dren may hold their breath and even become aggres­sive dur­ing a tantrum. Tantrums usu­al­ly last from 30 sec­onds to 5 min­utes, but maybe up to 30 minutes.

What Is The Origin Of a Tantrum?

Baby Has a Tantrum

Usu­al­ly, par­ents can man­age a child’s emo­tions and mon­i­tor their well-being. There are a lot of changes in a child’s life from ages 1–3. Which can be dis­ori­ent­ing and upset­ting and lead to a roller coast­er of emo­tions for a child. They are just learn­ing to express their pref­er­ences and, accus­tomed to being cod­dled by their parental fig­ures, will be very deter­mined as they show what they want and what they do not wish to. Tantrums are, there­fore, a method of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, and although they can be a real headache. They are also a sign of progress in a child’s com­mu­nica­tive abilities. Besides, at this stage, chil­dren do not have full ver­bal capac­i­ties yet. Mean­ing that they may need to express them­selves through oth­er means, such as scream­ing and kick­ing. The tantrum itself may result from a child’s inabil­i­ty to com­mu­ni­cate with words, which can be a great source of frustration. Tod­dlers don’t always have the self-con­trol that they need to keep them­selves from engag­ing in activ­i­ties that are social no-no’s, like bit­ing or throw­ing your belong­ings on the floor. They have lim­it­ed self-reg­u­la­tion, which is need­ed for impul­sive con­trol and expres­sion of emo­tions. Even though they may be able to repeat some­thing back to you, their abil­i­ty to imple­ment it may not devel­op until they are in the ear­ly preschool age.

What Is Likely To Provoke a Tantrum?

The first is tem­pera­ment. Some chil­dren have stronger reac­tions to sit­u­a­tions that they don’t like, and they are more liable to have tantrums. Also, fac­tors such as stress, fatigue, over­stim­u­la­tion, and hunger can lead to more sig­nif­i­cant dif­fi­cul­ties in man­ag­ing behav­iour and feelings. More­over, a par­tic­u­lar­ly frus­trat­ing sit­u­a­tion or strong emo­tions like wor­ry, anger, and shame can over­whelm a child and make him or her espe­cial­ly prone to hav­ing a tantrum.

Are Tantrums Intentional?

Screaming Toddler For younger chil­dren, tantrums are sim­ply the result of frus­tra­tion, and chil­dren don’t have con­trol over them. Old­er chil­dren, how­ev­er, may have learned to have tantrums as a mech­a­nism to get what they want. If par­ents reward chil­dren for hav­ing tantrums by giv­ing them what they want, then these chil­dren are more like­ly to have them in the future.

The Difference Between Tantrums and Meltdowns

Do you think Tem­per tantrums and Melt­downs are the same? Absolute­ly, NOT! While tantrums hap­pen when the tod­dlers are try­ing to get some­thing they des­per­ate­ly want, melt­downs occur as a reac­tion to feel­ing over­whelmed. Tantrums are usu­al­ly in the con­trol of the kids. They can stop behav­ing in a cer­tain way once they’re reward­ed with what they need, but that’s not the case with meltdowns. The out­come of melt­downs is usu­al­ly exhaustion/ tired­ness or change in the amount of sen­so­ry input. For instance, your child might feel a lot peace­ful when you leave a fam­i­ly gath­er­ing or party.

Preventing and Managing Tantrums

child throwing tantrum l toddler hitting l child meltdown When young chil­dren have tantrums, it can have a severe impact on adults, who them­selves become emo­tion­al­ly affect­ed and don’t always know what to do. Pre­vent­ing tantrums is ben­e­fi­cial to every­one, and there are some con­crete mea­sures you can take to keep tem­per tantrums to a min­i­mum. When a child is hav­ing a tantrum, one of the best things you can do as an adult is to dis­en­gage from the emo­tion­al impact of the child’s behaviour. You should encour­age your child to use words to tell you what he/she wants; it’s your respon­si­bil­i­ty to teach him/her sim­ple words to describe his/her feelings. Don’t expect your child to be per­fect and put rea­son­able lim­its. Dai­ly rou­tines are per­fect for chil­dren as they know what to expect; all should stick to the rules and nev­er change them. Try to avoid long out­go­ings or trips, remem­ber a child can’t sit still for a long time, if you have to, then keep a toy or a book with you, take healthy snacks in case he/she gets hungry. Enough rest and sleep are cru­cial to avoid tantrums. Try to decrease say­ing no, so you won’t frus­trate your child, con­sid­er say­ing yes sometimes.  And First of all, don’t take it per­son­al­ly! That isn’t always the eas­i­est thing to do – but remem­ber that the child isn’t try­ing to make you angry, but is just hav­ing dif­fi­cul­ties. It does­n’t mat­ter what peo­ple around you think. Just keep a lev­el head and don’t get wrapped up in the child’s emotions. Next, deter­mine what you will and won’t accept. For exam­ple, if your child insists on watch­ing a par­tic­u­lar show while eat­ing din­ner but you’d rather that she not watch TV, what is more, impor­tant to you – that she eat her din­ner agree­ably, or not watch TV? It’s essen­tial to be able to make com­pro­mis­es. Besides, it’s essen­tial to let your child know when you’re about to end an activ­i­ty. This way, he or she won’t get so worked up when it’s time to move on. It’s also essen­tial to give chil­dren choic­es they can grasp. Some­times this means being very spe­cif­ic. Instead of ask­ing them to clean up, for exam­ple, ask them to put their books back on the shelf. As you are set­ting your lim­its, it’s essen­tial to be as clear, direct, and straight­for­ward as you can. That ends up being less stress­ful for both you and the child as you are telling a child what to do. Be sure to do so with as lit­tle emo­tion as you can. Try to speak com­pas­sion­ate­ly. Ulti­mate­ly, this is eas­i­er for both you and the child. Don’t for­get to give pos­i­tive feed­back. When the child does some­thing good, rein­force it with extra atten­tion and praise. You can hug the child and tell him or her what a good lis­ten­er he or she is. This extra rein­force­ment encour­ages fur­ther sim­i­lar behaviour.

How To Respond?

So what are you sup­posed to do when a tantrum does happen? First, as men­tioned pre­vi­ous­ly, it’s good to dis­tance one­self emo­tion­al­ly. But apart from that, some­times it’s just a ques­tion of let­ting a tantrum run its course and act­ing in ways that will encour­age the child to return to nor­mal as quick­ly as possible. What you can do is not lose your calm when a child is hav­ing a tantrum. As the child is spin­ning out of con­trol, you should remain calm. If you have a strong reac­tion such as frown­ing or get­ting upset, this will just upset the child more and per­pet­u­ate the tantrum. It’s eas­i­er for the child to calm down if you are calm. Also, it’s essen­tial to act with com­pas­sion. That means con­sid­er­ing the sit­u­a­tion from the child’s perspective. child throwing tantrum l hitting l child meltdown What if you’re hav­ing fun at the play­ground and then decide it’s time to go home? Of course, you would be upset! It’s impor­tant to acknowl­edge that the child is con­fused for a good rea­son and that the play­ground is fun! Instead of reas­sur­ing the child, let him or her know that you can only spend so much time at the play­ground and that the time is up, instead of going straight to the next time that he or she gets to spend at the play­ground, be clear of the lim­its. Con­nect­ed to act­ing with com­pas­sion is rec­og­niz­ing the child’s desires and feel­ings. Acknowl­edg­ing how much the child likes the play­ground, for exam­ple, will help your child because part of the tantrum is let­ting you know how impor­tant some­thing is. It’s essen­tial to hon­our the child’s feel­ings while also pre­sent­ing a lim­i­ta­tion: “I under­stand how much you like the play­ground, but it’s get­ting dark, and we have to go home!” It’s pos­si­ble to estab­lish these lim­i­ta­tions with­out mak­ing the child feel ashamed or wor­ried. It’s just a state­ment of fact, not a judgment. Redi­rec­tion or dis­trac­tion is the best way to deal with a child’s tantrum; it usu­al­ly works with chil­dren younger than two and a half years. Dis­trac­tion helps to teach the child the val­ue of momen­tar­i­ly think­ing or doing some­thing else when the prob­lem appears unsolv­able. Like some­thing your kid likes, such as read­ing a favourite book or going for a walk. You can also ask the child if he or she wants a hug. Offer chil­dren ways to express their frus­tra­tion! It’s some­times just a mat­ter of teach­ing tod­dlers words that encap­su­late what they are feel­ing or, for more phys­i­cal kids, an oppor­tu­ni­ty to take out their aggres­sion by tear­ing paper or throw­ing a pil­low or work­ing through their frus­tra­tion in clay. Nev­er give in to your child dur­ing a tantrum and nev­er pun­ish­es him/her as this may lead to more frus­tra­tion dur­ing the process of self-learning. If redi­rec­tion does­n’t work, make space and time for your­self!. As long as your child is in a safe space, take a time-out to decom­press and recharge. Removal of pos­i­tive par­enter­al helps deesca­late the tantrum in 25–80% of cases.

What Can I Do About Public Tantrums?

When chil­dren have pub­lic tantrums, it’s best to ignore them. If the sit­u­a­tion esca­lates, take the child to a pri­vate space and do your best to de-esca­late the situation.  Once the tantrum is over, go back to what you were doing, so the child learns that the tantrum is not a long-term solu­tion to escape.

When Is It Necessary To Get Professional Help?

child throwing tantrum l toddler hitting l child meltdown Over time, a child’s self-con­trol should get bet­ter. Usu­al­ly, they start to become less fre­quent as kids approach preschool age. If your child is still hav­ing trou­ble ver­bal­iz­ing, caus­ing harm to them­selves or oth­ers, or if tantrums are get­ting worse, it’s time to con­sult with your physician. Chil­dren are very respon­sive to assis­tance, and chil­dren can become less prone to tantrums over time. Although tantrums are not pleas­ant, they are a man­i­fes­ta­tion of your child’s devel­op­ment, and this self-expres­sion is vital to their suc­cess and well-being. Dr.Eman Sed­ky has med­ical­ly reviewed the article.  Amazon Baby registry

Final Words!

As a par­ent, you don’t have to be hard on your­self based on your child’s tem­per tantrums. Almost every tod­dler has tantrums, and as they grow up, they gain self-control. Even­tu­al­ly, they learn to col­lab­o­rate, com­mu­ni­cate, and deal with exas­per­a­tion. With the tips and tricks men­tioned above, you can eas­i­ly tame your kids’ tem­per tantrums and, in the process, become much more hap­py and coop­er­a­tive parents 🙂

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