Temper Tantrums

There comes a day in the life of every parent when their beautiful little darling, sometimes within seconds of hearing the word ‘No’, transforms themselves into a ‘tiny terror’; face contorted, lying on the floor with arms and legs flailing. Adding to the shock and horror are the disapproving looks and comments from well-intentioned bystanders.

Child development experts have labelled this type of ‘event’ as a ‘temper tantrum’.

Temper tantrums are:

  • Are a normal part of child development.
  • Most common between the ages of one and three, and usually start to decrease in number and intensity by the age of four
  • A call for help. Your child needs your support in helping them to ‘pull themselves together’ and regain control of their emotions
  • Usually preventable if the cause of the behaviour is addressed.

Managing temper tantrums

  • By using positive discipline strategies you can effectively manage your child’s temper tantrums. Although this is often easier said than done.
  • Temper tantrums can be managed successfully when parents and caregivers:
    • Can remain calm
    • Avoid reinforcing the behaviour
    • Provide their child with comfort and support once the temper tantrum is over.

Temper tantrums can happen when your child is:

  • Over excited, bored, tired, hungry or sick
  • Wanting to be independent, ‘No! Me do it’
  • Needing your attention or having difficulty being away from you
  • Expected to do things beyond their skills and abilities (external link)
  • Experiencing a delay in one or more areas of their development
  • Having difficulty labelling or expressing their emotions
  • Struggling to master a new skill; e.g., frustrated as they try to learn to tie their shoe laces
  • Experiencing stress in response to; a change in their routine, transitioning to a new activity, adjusting to a new sibling or perhaps reacting to stress in the home
  • Learning that their temper tantrums may be rewarded!
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  • Stay calm, quiet and in control
  • Stay near your child
  • Keep your child safe; prevent them from harming himself or others and/or breaking things
  • If the tantrum occurs in a public place, if possible, move your child to a quiet, calm, safe place
  • If your child calms with physical touch provide them with gentle and firm holding
  • Try not to reason with your child or give in to what they want
  • Wait for the ‘storm’ to pass!
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  • Provide them with comfort and reassurance
  • Acknowledge their feelings while letting them know that their behaviour - What they did with their feelings was unacceptable (e.g., ‘I know you are really angry, but you cannot throw the blocks’)
  • Set them up in another activity
  • Remember to praise them for behaving well!
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Sorry, but no. However there are things you can do that may help:

  • Learn about normal growth and development. Increasing your awareness about normal growth and development can help you to:
    • Have realistic expectations about your child’s skills and abilities.
    • Seek help early if concerns about your child’s development arise.
  • Meet basic needs.
    • Establish predictable routines for everyday activities such as with eating and sleeping.
    • Provide your child with safe places to play and interesting things to do!
    • Be active. Find an outlet for your child to expend their energy, both indoors and out of doors.
    • Support independence. Give your child opportunities to make age appropriate, manageable choices
  • Connect with your child.
    • Use every day moments to connect (external link) with your child such as preparing dinner, sorting clothes. It really does make a difference!
    • Help your child to manage their feelings during periods of separation from you and when you ‘reconnect’ look confident (even if you’re not), have a big smile and tell them how happy you are to be with them again!
  • Use positive discipline strategies such as:
    • Establishing ground rules that are fair, few and enforceable
    • Being consistent and reserve saying ‘no’ for things that are important
    • Praising the behaviours you wish to encourage
    • Warning your child that a change in activity is about to happen and telling them what you expect them to do; e.g., ‘In ten minutes it will be time to go home for lunch’
  • Tune into your child's temperament.
    • Tune into your child’s unique temperament, know their limits and watch for signs that a temper tantrum is about to happen
  • Help your child express and manage their emotions.
    • Help your child label and work through their feelings by reading books, drawing pictures, making up stories or acting out situations (external link) that deal with their stress
    • Teach your child how to manage stress
    • Know your own signs of stress and when needed, call upon your favourite stress busters. It is worth it...the face that is looking back at you is often a reflection of your own
    • Teach them how to problem-solve and how to ask for help
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Managing a child’s temper tantrums is not always easy and many of us could use some extra help from time to time.

We encourage you to seek further help if your child is:

  • Having frequent temper tantrums after the age of four
  • Not meeting their developmental milestones (external link)
  • Harming themselves, others or destroying property
  • Having temper tantrums together with headaches, stomach aches, nightmares, refusal to eat and/or your child is also clingy, very irritable or anxious

Most importantly, we encourage you to seek help if you feel you are no longer able to cope. You are not alone. HaltonParents are here to help.

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