My Thoughts on Tantrums

May 28, 2012

Tantrums are a natural part of a child’s life. They are a developmental stage that every child goes through. I do not believe that they are not a child attempt to manipulate you or to ‘push-your-buttons’, although it can certainly seem that way. Remember children don’t know how to express themselves. We have language and have had a few decades to practice controlling emotions and expressing them in a calm manner. Kids haven’t. They’re learning. Let them learn.

My daughter was capable of amazing tantrums that lasted hours. She started having lying-down-on-the-floor tantrums at 18 months, these peaked at 2.5years and finished around 3.5 years. Now at age 4.5 she is a lovely, generally-calm, happy, funny little girl.

My tips to surviving tantrums are these

  • Don’t take the tantrum personally
  • Limit the triggers, particularly around naps and bedtime. Put sweets into bowls rather than give half a packet. Have communal toys on hand when visitors come over, i.e. bubbles, building blocks, colouring pencils and paper.
  • Pick your battles. Is it really so important that s/he wears matching socks?
  • With the point above in mind, once you’ve said no stick to it. Don’t give in once the tantrum has started or you’ll turn a development stage into a behavioural trait.
  • Warn them in advance of change. ‘We’ll be leaving in 5 minutes Johnnie’
  • Acknowledge their upset but don’t get into a discussion about the cause of it. ‘I know you’re upset that we had to leave. We can do something fun when you’ve calmed down’
  • Give them space if they want it. Once they’re not endangering themselves or others I’d let them get on with their screaming and kicking unimpeded. 
  • Don’t isolated them. I think it’s fine to leave a child to get their frustration out but i wouldn’t put them in a room and close the door. I think this gives the message that you’ll be rejected if you express yourself.
  • Don’t engage in discussion while the child is screaming. Keep repeating ‘We can talk when you’ve calmed down’ unless of course you feel that talking is what they need – you know your own child best.
  • Focus on behaviour not emotions. I think it’s fine to say ‘we don’t scream in this house’ but not to say ‘stop crying’. Remember you’re trying to teach your child how to express their emotions not to suppress them.
  • When the tantrum is over cuddle your child. S/he will be worn out and feeling emotionally vulnerable. They need to know you still love them. Psychologists say that tantrums are a sign that kids feel secure enough to express themselves freely so in that way tantrums are a good sign.

What I’ve listed above may sound easy but what’s really hard is staying calm as a child screams the house down. You’ve go to find a way to achieve zen during the whole episode. Whether its locking yourself in the loo for 5 minutes or putting earphones / earplugs, do what you need to do.

The good news about tantrums is they pass and remember with every tantrum you get closer to the end. Tantrums are an opportunity to teach your child how to deal with emotions. The tools you give them during this stage will determine how easily they deal with emotions in their adult life.

Best of luck



One Response to “My Thoughts on Tantrums”

  1. PushDumpFatButton Says:

    Reblogged this on Push Dump Fat Button.

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