Taming Temper Tantrums in Washington DC
Children sure can create big scenes! No matter how sweet your child is or how good a parent you are, meltdowns are a fact of toddler life. Try to remember that your child’s tantrums aren’t a reflection of your parenting skills: They simply mean you’ve got a frustrated child on your hands.
“She was completely out of control.” “His screaming was giving me a pounding headache.”
The statements above are just a few ways to describe temper tantrums, a concern for many care givers of young children. Many caregivers and parents report temper tantrums as a behavior that they have difficulty coping with in a patient and positive way. Although associated with toddlers, temper tantrums are a frequent occurrence in young children, only beginning to diminish around ages five or six. And although it is a common behavior, many care givers lack strategies for preventing and taming temper tantrums.
As with talking gestures and crying, temper tantrums are a mode of communication for the young child. Their lack of language skills mad lead to a more direct way of expression; such as throwing puzzle pieces across the room. It then becomes the care giver’s task to decipher the message and address the issue. What follows is a list of possible causes of temper tantrums and the messages they convey.
Even young toddlers and infants are prone to experience intense frustration. The child who is struggling to obtain a toy that is out of reach only needs to fail a few times before feelings of anger and frustration become overwhelming. The care giver who recognizes that providing for success in young children’s activities and environment, by supplying age appropriate toys and materials, can prevent much frustration and is well on the way to taming temper tantrums.
Caregivers will often see what can be referred to as mid-afternoon slump. During the late afternoon, young children can become over tired; resulting in crankiness, irritability and a decrease in their skills to handle strong emotions and conflict. Of course, it is wise to note, children can also become over tired from a lack of balance in the daily schedule, or a schedule that does not consider the needs of the child. Children may react in a similar manner when they are over stimulated. Field trips and holidays, where the excitement level is high, there is a change in routine, and many things are vying for a child’s attention can be particular problems. Adhering to the routine, preparing young children in advance, keeping thinks simple, providing a balance between active and inactive activities, and ensuring a time for rest; these are just some ways a care giver can prevent child from becoming over tired and over stimulated.
Independence and autonomy have long been recognized as crucial issues for young children. They can now see how their actions impact and influence events and people around them. Such is the need for independence and control, that a child who is denied may be compelled to assert their independence in dramatic or inappropriate ways. Many of us have witnessed a young child losing control because they don’t want help. Toddlers have even been known to reject snack or trips to the zoo, just to assert the power to say no! It is helpful to avoid conflict by providing opportunities for a child to feel independent. Caregivers need to allow children to make some choices, encourage independent action, and allow them to try new skills.
Temper tantrums have been associated with the child who is acting out to get attention. This seems to occur in the older child who has learned from past experiences that temper tantrums can achieve the desired result. Most likely, the older child who has a temper tantrum for attention has not been encouraged to seek attention in more appropriate ways. A caregiver must be sensitive to their response to this behavior, and consider, are they actually reinforcing an unwanted behavior. Remember, for some children, negative attention is better than no attention at all. Temper tantrums for attention can often be avoided by the care giver’s effort to give attention to a child’s positive behavior.
Appropriate caregiver interaction and response is the key to coping with temper tantrums once they occur. Frequently, a child who is in the throes of a temper tantrum is feeling out of control, both emotionally and physically. This can be frightening and overwhelming to the child, only intensifying the episode. Caregivers often add fuel to the fire by telling, or reacting in a manner that may mirror the child’s actions. It is beneficial to remain calm and speak slowly and softly. Acknowledge the child’s feelings and reassure them you are there to help them regain control. A care give may say something like, “I can see you are very angry right now. I wonder if it is because you want to go outside? I can’t help you when you’re screaming and kicking. Let’s sit down and get calm, then maybe you can tell me with words what is wrong.”
by: Kristina McCartney, Philia Child Care Specialist