How To Deal With That Tantrum


by on July 22, 2007

in Parenting Kids

If you are a parent, you are probably all too familiar with the following scenario. You are waiting to check out of the supermarket or department store when suddenly it happens. Your toddler launches into a full blown tantrum that shows no signs of stopping, complete with supersonic, ear-shattering, teeth-jarring screams that literally pierce the air. Your first instinct is to abandon the basket and child and run away, but of course that isn't a real option. There is a better way. Here is some information on how to deal with a temper tantrum.

The first thing to know is why do kids have tantrums? Temper tantrums run the gamut from whining and crying to screaming, kicking, hitting and breath-holding. They occur about equally between boys and girls and are most common from the ages one to three. Just like everything else, some kids may experience regular tantrums whereas other kids may only have them rarely. It really depends on the kid's own temperament. So don't be surprised if your generally good-natured toddler has an occasional temper tantrum. They are a normal part of development. They happen as a result of the fact that children do not have the same inhibitions or controls as adults (or that adults are suppose to have).

Toddlers are also trying to master their world, and when they aren't able to accomplish a task, they often use one of the only tools at their disposal for venting frustration: a full-blown tantrum. The basic causes of tantrums are familiar to parents everywhere: The child is seeking attention or is tired, hungry, or uncomfortable. In addition, tantrums are often the result of kids' frustration with the world when they can't get something (for example, an object or a parent) to do what they want. Frustration is an unavoidable part of their lives and their development as they learn how people, objects, and their own bodies work.


Another problem that toddlers have is that they generally understand more than they can express. The good news is that as language skills improve, temper tantrums tend to decrease. Another trigger for tantrums is that a child wants a sense of independence and control over the environment which is more than the toddler may be capable of handling.

So what is the best way to avoid tantrums altogether? Here are some strategies that may help:

• Make sure the tantrum is not the result of your child needing more attention. To some children, negative attention (which is a parent's response to a tantrum) is better than no attention at all. Try to catch your child being good. Reward your little one for positive behavior.

• Try to give your toddler some control over little things. This may help fulfill the need for independence and help ward off an oncoming tantrum. Structure the choices so that no matter what they decide both choices are okay by you. For example: Ask-"Do you want orange or apple juice?" or "Do you want to wear the blue or red shirt?"

• Remember the old "out of sight, out of mind" rule. Keep off-limit objects put away so that struggles to reach them are less likely. Sometimes this isn't possible outside of the home so feel free to control the environment where you can.

• If need be, try distracting your child. Take advantage of your little one's short attention span by offering a replacement for the coveted object or beginning a new activity to replace the frustrating or forbidden one.

• And finally consider your child's request. Is it really outrageous, or are you just saying no out of habit? Giving in sometimes is okay, and it lets your child know you consider her feelings and needs. And if all else fails, remember the tantrum stage doesn't last forever and soon you will be facing some new and exciting development in your child's life!

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