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Difficult Children: How to Cope with Constant Tantrums?

Image of father playing with his child

 Dear Parents! You may not realize that Tantrums are natural behavior. The typical cause is a need or desire that has not been satisfied.

 Tantrums will begin as children realize that they are individuals and separate from their parents. They are seeking to explore and develop that independence.

 The natural reaction from adults when they witness a tantrum is that the child is a spoiled brat. They seem to have everything done for them. What more do they need?

 Externally this might be the case, but the child is undergoing considerable changes in their life. As babies, they start with zero knowledge, at age two, they have just learned to walk, and this creates the ability to get around an explore.

 A child will achieve a first, like finding and exploring a strange box on the wall, and expect praise, but instead, the parent yells “don’t touch that electric outlet!”

 It is all very confusing when they feel like they have done something fantastic like standing in their high chair – no hands, and the parent screams and grabs them without a word of praise.

 When toddlers have become sad or disappointed, they do not have the language skills to express those emotions. The result is a tantrum.

     What is Going on Inside?

 When babies are born, they have an alarm mechanism that is already developed. This alarm is designed to allow the baby to recognize distress and warn the parent, usually by crying. This is a survival mechanism.

 A toddler still has this mechanism but has not yet fully developed the skills to manage their reaction to it. This hormonal eruption causes anxiety and emotional pain. This stress hinders the toddler’s ability to reason.

Image of a child playing in the sand on the beach

 Some people never learn to rationalize this emotion and will carry out destructive acts when they encounter these strong emotional urges. They do irrational things like punching a wall or putting a hand through a glass window.

 Afterwards, when they realize what they have done, the person may apologize and say that they didn’t know what they were thinking. This is actually true for that moment.

 The child needs to learn how to connect this strong emotional flood to their rational mind.

     How to Make Tantrums Less Likely?

 Having identified what is happening inside the child, the next stage is to try and prevent the hormonal, emotional surge occurring (before the tantrum/reaction).

     Reduce Stress.

 Toddlers that are tired, hungry, and have been over-stimulated are at a higher risk of having a tantrum.

     Tune in to the Child.

 Learn how to recognize the early stages as this emotional surge is building and intervene before it is expressed as a tantrum.

     Identify What the Triggers Are.

 If you can understand what normally triggers a tantrum, it should be possible in some cases to plan ahead and avoid that trigger.

     Talk to the Child.

 The next anti-tantrum strategy is to try and talk to the child and get them to name the feeling that just caused the tantrum. Then once you have a name, you can discuss it and ask a question like “Why did you throw your toy on the floor, was it because it did not work?”

     What Should I do During a Tantrum?

Image of a married couple and their daughter in the pool

 First of all, keep calm. Your child is having strong emotions, for you to do the same does not help. Tell yourself that you are there to help the child get through this issue. To do that, you need to be calm.

     Not All Tantrums Are Created Equally.

 If the tantrum is taking place because your toddler is tired or hungry, then they will need comfort (a little sleep or a snack of some kind).

 If the tantrum is for other reasons, then all you can do is ignore the outburst, and maybe try and distract the child.

     Tantrum Reasons and Your Reaction.

 Your child is told to do something they do not want to do?

 The best strategy is to ignore the tantrum until the child has become calm and then tell the child, again, to do the task.

     Your Child Wants Attention.

 It is best to ignore the tantrum, or you are teaching your child that if they want attention than they need to have a tantrum.

     Your Child Wants Something and is Refused.

 Stay calm; do not go into the detailed explanation of why they cannot have the item. Then move on to another activity.

     Safety Issues.

The child independently plays with the children's car

 If your child is in any danger of injuring themselves (or somebody else), you should move the child somewhere less busy, where hopefully they will calm down.

 If a tantrum is taking place in a public place, it is again best to move the child to a private place.

 If it is a safety issue, and the child repeats the behavior that is not allowed a second time, hold the child firmly and impose a time out. Be consistent in this and in all responses.

     Do Not Teach Your Child to Have Tantrums.

 If you give in when your child has a tantrum, however tempting it might be, you will only send them the message that tantrums work. Children will realize that the tactic worked and repeat the process. You are merely reinforcing the behavior.

 For children, preschooler and older, send them to their room. Do not set a particular time (like an hour) tell them to stay in their bedroom until they regain control. By letting the child decide the time they will recover quicker, as knowing they have control on the length of time will help them regain control quicker.

     Development Tool.

 For young children, making the association between the hormonal storm and their rational mind and learning to control them is an essential step in their development.

 Failure to make this connection and learning these skills as a toddler can mean that later in life; they will have similar issues, which will be much more severe.

 So, while tantrums are embarrassing and inconvenient, you should look at them as an essential part of your child’s development.

   Also read the article: Age Stages of Child Rearing

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