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What are temper tantrums?
What is the cause?
How are these tantrums prevented?
Managing temper tantrums
Written by : DoctorNDTV Team
  • What are temper tantrums?

    When children feel frustrated, angry, or disappointed, they often express themselves by crying, screaming, breaking things, rolling on the floor, whining, holding their breath, kicking or hitting. Parents may feel angry, helpless or embarrassed at such behaviour. Temper tantrums are a normal part of a child's development as he learns self-control. in fact, all children have tantrums between the ages of 1 and 3. It is generally seen that by age 4 tantrums usually stop.
  • What is the cause?

    Tantrums are not due to any physical or genetic cause but generally occur in those children who are pampered or spoilt. Sometimes the parents might not have enough time to spend which the child and tend to over compensate with toys and other gifts. When they have an only child they may automatically give in to his demands. Temper tantrums are a way for a child to let off ‘steam’ when he is upset. Some other reasons for these are that he may:
    • try to gain attention through tantrums
    • not fully understand what a parent is saying or asking, and may get confused
    • become upset when others cannot understand what he is saying
    • not have the words to describe his feelings and needs
    • have an illness or other physical problem that keeps him from expressing how he feels
    • be hungry but not recognise it
    • be tired or not getting enough sleep
    • be anxious and uncomfortable
    • not yet be able to do the things he can imagine, such as walking and running, climbing down stairs or from furniture, drawing things, or making toys work
    • get irritable if he is not allowed to do what he wants to do
  • How are these tantrums prevented?

    Children feel safer showing their feelings to the people they trust, hence they show more tantrums only in front of their parents. The following may help reduce the chances of a tantrum:
    • Set reasonable limits and do not expect a child to be perfect. Give simple reasons for the rules you set, and don’t change the rules.
    • Keep a daily routine as much as possible, so that the child knows what to expect.
    • Avoid situationa that will frustrate the child, such as playing with children or toys that are too advanced for his abilities.
    • Avoid outings or visits where the child ha to sit still or cannot play for long periods of time.
    • Meet the child’s physical needs and give him adequate attention.
    • Make sure that the child is well rested, especially before a busy day or stressful activity.
    • Distract the child from activities likely to lead to a tantrum. Suggest different activities. Sometimes, something as simple as changing locations can prevent a tantrum.
    • Set a good example. Avoid arguing or shouting in front of your child and lead by example by handling your own temper.
    • Avoid excessive demands or restrictions.
  • Managing temper tantrums

    Parents can sometimes tell when tantrums are coming. The child may seem moody, cranky or difficult. He may start to cry, kick, scream, fall to the ground, or hold his breath. At other times, a tantrum may come on suddenly for no obvious reason. When the child has a temper tantrum, the suggestions below can help both the child and the parents get through it successfully:

    Distract the child by calling his attention to something else, such as a new activity, book, or toy. Sometimes just touching or stroking a child will calm him. You may need to gently restrain or hold the child. Interrupt his behaviour with a light comment like, “I think there is a dog outside.” Humour or something as simple as a funny face can also help.

    1. Try to remain calm. If you shout or become angry, it is likely to make things worse. Remember, the more attention you give to his behaviour, the more likely it is to happen again.
    2. Minor displays of anger such as crying, screaming, or kicking can usually be ignored. Stand nearby or hold the child without talking until he calms down.
    3. Some temper tantrums cannot be ignored. The following kinds of behaviour should not be ignored and are not acceptable:

      • hitting or kicking parents or others
      • throwing things in a dangerous way
      • prolonged screaming or yelling
    4. If you cannot stay calm, leave the room. Wait a minute or two, or until his crying stops, before returning. Then help him get interested in something else. If the child is old enough, talk about what happened and discuss other ways to deal with it next time.
    5. You should never punish the child for temper tantrums. He may start to keep his anger or frustration inside, which can be unhealthy. Your response to tantrums should be calm and understanding.
    6. Do not give a reward to the child for stopping a tantrum. Rewards may teach the child that a temper tantrum will help him get his way. When tantrums do not accomplish anything for the child, they are less likely to continue.
    7. When the outbursts are severe or happen too often, they may be an early sign of emotional problems. Talk to a paediatrician if the child causes harm to himself or others during tantrums, holds his breath and faints, or if the tantrums get worse after age 4. the paediatrician will make sure there are no serious physical or psychological problems causing the tantrums. He can also give you advise to help you deal with these outbursts.

    It is important to realise that temper tantrums are a normal part of growing up. Tantrums are not easy to deal with but a loving, understanding and consistent approach will help a child through this part of his development.

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