Handling the tantrum kid

Last Updated 18 October 2013, 15:31 IST

Teaching the child to manage temper tantrums must be done with the child’s adulthood in mind, advises Mary Chelladurai.

Every parent wants his little child to keep cool and to grow up to be a mature person. Naturally, the first step as parents is to handle temper tantrums sensibly. Temper tantrums are very much a part of almost every child’s development. The intensity of these tantrums can vary due to the personality and temperament of the child. The show of tantrum ranges from falling on the floor, kicking, crying, shrieking, throwing and breaking articles, rolling on the floor, stamping feet on the ground and screaming and nothing can stop the child but its own exhaustion.

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.
Whenever there is a scene of a temper tantrum, the immediate response of a parent is the need to control the child, and many a times use threats or reprimand him/her to stop this behaviour.

This response can further trigger the tantrum leading to violent emotional outburst. For example, telling him/her it is ‘naughty’ to behave so, and to punish him for it is in itself an aggressive act on the part of the adult who does it. It only creates more aggressive feelings to add to the original ones and if this happens often enough, the child gets wrong signals to handle frustrations in a destructive way. Teaching the child to manage frustration and anger must be done with the child’s adulthood in mind. 
Common reasons for temper tantrum:

* Hunger, exhaustion, over stimulation, fatigue, fear, anger, boredom, or mere control over emotions.

*  Frustration from being ignored or being told a “no” for something without being given a reason.

*  Lack of language skills and inability to express normally.

*  Hurting the child’s ego. Yes, (s)he might be a child, but (s)he too has an ego just like an adult.

*  Too much restriction on the child.

Handling temper tantrums:

*  Do not force the child to bottle-up aggressive or negative feelings. Let the child put it all out.

*  Understand that temper tantrum is not really a bad behaviour, but merely a negative emotion expressed inappropriately, for the child is yet to learn to control his/her emotions.

*Keep a calm posture while dealing with the temper tantrums of your child. The worst thing parents can do is have a temper tantrum over their child's temper tantrum. Children need a calming influence, especially during a tantrum, and if you can’t provide that, you can’t expect them to calm down. Take a few deep breaths and wait at least a few seconds before deciding on a response.

* If you are denying the child of something (s)he badly wants, give a substantial reason and put it in easy words so that your child can understand that.

*  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 low blood sugar, pain or digestive problems! The lack of a place to nap is a common cause of tantrums. Schedule activities around your child's needs. Having a set schedule with nap time included is greatly recommended.

*Verbal outbursts of “I hate you!”s from the child might tempt you to say “I hate you too!”. But it is not very wise. The child really feels hate at the moment (s)he says it, and will believe his/her mother feels the same way - which is terrifying. Instead, retort with “That’s a pity, because I love you.”

*  Do not reward the tantrum. If the parents give in, tantrums become a launching point for the child—a way to deal with the world socially. If you allow yourself to be held hostage by tantrums, your child will continue to use them long past the age when they would otherwise cease.

Even if the child is throwing a fit because he hasn’t received enough attention, don’t reward the behaviour now. Instead, resolve to make long-term changes to avoid future outbursts. Try not to panic or make concessions, but leave the scene, even if just for a few minutes.

* Explain to the child that you will talk to him or her when (s)he calms down.

(Published 18 October 2013, 15:31 IST)

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