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Managing your child's temper tantrums
Rupal Mehta
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November 13, 2006

Young children find it difficult to manage negative emotions like frustration, anger or disappointment. They often express themselves by crying, screaming or stomping up and down.

As a parent, you may feel angry or helpless. Even embarrassed. However, parents have to understand tantrums are a normal part of a child's development; children are still  in the process of learning self-control. Temper tantrums are just a way of letting off steam when your child is upset. 

Why children have a temper tantrum

Preventing temper tantrums

1. Indulge in positive reinforcement. Encourage children when they behave well. Give good behaviour more attention.

2. Express your love to your child as often as possible with physical demonstration like hugs, kisses, etc.

3. Teach children to use words to express how they feel, such as "I am getting angry." Or "This makes me feel sad." Try to understand how they feel and suggest words they can use to describe their feelings.

4. Set reasonable limits and don't expect your child to be perfect. Give simple reasons for the rules you set, and try to be consistent with the rules.

5. Keep a daily routine, as much as possible, so your child knows what to expect. Predictable meal times and nap times are very important.

6. Avoid situations that will frustrate your child, such as toys that are too advanced for your child's abilities.

7. Avoid long outings or visits where your child has to sit still or cannot play for long periods of time. If you have to take a trip, bring along your child's favourite book or toy to entertain her.

8. Be prepared with healthy snacks when your child gets hungry.

9. Make sure your child is well rested, especially before a busy day or stressful activity. 

10. Be choosy about saying no. When you say no to every demand or request your child makes, it will frustrate him. Listen carefully to requests. When a request is not too unreasonable or inconvenient, consider saying yes.

11. Let your child choose whenever possible. For example, if your child resists a bath, make it clear she has to have one, but offer a simple decision she can make on her own. Instead of saying, "Do you want to take a bath?" Try saying, "It's time for your bath. Would you like to walk to the bathroom or would you like me to carry you?"

12. Give your child a few minutes' warning before you end an activity. Say "We are going to leave the park and go home in a few minutes" or "Put your toys away, we are sitting for dinner in 10 minutes." Knowing beforehand will help your child get ready for change.

13. Set a good example. Avoid arguing or yelling in front of your child.

Sometimes tantrums are inevitable. What should you do when your child throws a tantrum?

How to handle tantrums

~Hug your child

Hugging your child can work wonders. Comfort and reassure her.

Tantrums really scare most kids. Often, they are not sure why they feel so angry; they feel rather shaken when it is all over. They need to know that, although you disapprove of their behaviour, you still love them. Also, holding an 'out-of-control' child calmly is sometimes necessary to keep him from hurting himself or someone else. You might also say something like: "I can see you are angry right now, and I am going to hold you until you calm down. I won't let you hurt me or anyone else." Often, this approach can be comforting to a child.

~Try to stay calm 

Shaking, spanking, or screaming at a child only tends to make the tantrum worse, instead of better. Set a positive example for children by remaining in control of yourself and your emotions. Remember, the more attention you give this behaviour, the more likely it is to happen again. If you are not able to stay calm, leave the room for some time.

~Ignore the tantrum

When children throw tantrums to get attention or to get their way, ignore the tantrum and continue doing whatever you are doing. Tell them you are there to talk to them and listen to them, but only when they are able to talk politely and calmly. Wait until the child calms down, then talk. It's difficult to reason with a screaming child. Insist on a 'cooling down' period, and then discuss the child's behaviour. Use this opportunity to teach the child acceptable ways of handling anger and difficult situations.

~Don't give in to the child's demands 

Giving in to a tantrum teaches children this is an acceptable method for them to get their way. It will lead to more tantrums in the future. Even if you feel the demand is acceptable and not worth the child crying so much, DO NOT give in to it AFTER the child has thrown a tantrum. You can tell the child what she is asking for is acceptable but the way she asked for it is not. Next time, when she asks politely and without throwing a tantrum, you will consider it.

If you are in a public place, carry your child out to the car or to a private place. Tell them you will not go back inside until they calm down. If they don't calm down, leave the place and go home, if possible. Sometimes you need to do that to ensure your child knows you mean what you say. 

It's important for you to realise tantrums are a normal part of growing up. They are not easy to deal with, and they can be a little scary for you and your children. Using a loving, understanding and consistent approach will help your children through them. 

-- The author is a psychologist and a freelance writer.

Are you a parent? How do you handle your child's tantrums? Post your experiences and tips


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Number of User Comments: 7

Sub: temper tantrums

kudos to this wonderful article of urs i have been known by my friends and relatives as a very short tempered and rigid personality and ...

Posted by PRIYESH

Sub: temper tantrums

i have been known by my friends and relatives as a very short tempered and rigid personality and lately i feel that i have been ...

Posted by PRIYESH

Sub: temper tantrums

hi the tips given can always be tried.The best way i\'ve exp with my 2yr old stubborn son is by diverting his attention to something ...

Posted by sanjana ramchandani

Sub: Hugges

Whatever u have said is not practically possible . new generation is not understanding such a soft things . It reqires dandugiri

Posted by Sachin Mahadev Kesarkar

Sub: How to handle elders....

Its natural that everyone including kids have tantrums. This article throughs best insight into handling child\'s bad temper. How about handling same situation with elders. ...

Posted by Mahipati


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