When a Childs Tantrums Reveal Significant Behavior Issues

The most important thing for a caregiver to understand about temper tantrums is the developmental process that is behind them. During the beginning stages of parenting, while the child is still an infant, he is relatively happy as long as his basic needs are met. However, as he grows into a toddler, he begins to separate from his caregivers. He begins recognizing that he is a separate being and becomes aware of “choices”.

As adults, we make choices all day long. It is frustrating for children to try to make their own choices, only to be told “no” over and over again. Even we adults, who have developed self-control, would have a hard time controlling our emotions if we ran up against a wall every time we tried to make a choice!

The bottom line is that it is our job as parents and caregivers to teach our children how to handle these emotional outbursts. They should be seen as an opportunity to teach and nurture – not as a catastrophe. We must teach our children to make choices to be independent (yes. it starts this early). If you scold them and discipline them for showing emotions, then you are teaching them that when they are confused, frustrated, hurting or scared that they cannot come to you because you will not understand. On the other hand, if you give in, you teach them that as long as they are emotional, then they learn that by throwing a temper tantrum, they can get what they want!

You must step back from the situation, take a deep breath, and relax. Determine whether or not your child is tired, ill, frustrated, over stimulated, seeking attention, hungry, or uncomfortable. Remember that young children are not able to communicate their needs to adults, especially when they are tired! They lack problem-solving skills, so they let us know the only way they know how. Remembering this makes it easier to stay calm.

Before one can judge the seriousness of temper tantrums in a child, a closer look at possible triggers and the overall behavior must be taken.

Here are some helpful tips:

*Take a deep breath.

*Relax. Take 45 seconds to think before you react.

*Try giving the child a hug – sometimes that will calm him.

*Try to voice what the child is going through – “You are feeling really tired right now, aren’t you? And you want to go home?” or “You really wanted that cookie, didn’t you?” Sometimes he just needs to know that you understand him. That doesn’t mean that you give in and give him what he wants. It just means that you help him voice his frustration!

*Use distraction to try to get his attention on something else. If he is screaming for a balloon at the grocery store, point out all the pretty flowers in the floral section. Let him smell some of them.

*Is your child over-stimulated? If so, you need to take him to a quiet place to calm down. Do so patiently, lovingly, and calmly. Sometimes it is necessary to leave the store and go sit in the car for a while.

*Ignore people who may give you dirty looks as you are dealing with the tantrum. Remember, they do not have an understanding of child development.

*If you feel the child is throwing a tantrum to get attention, then ignore him while going about your business as usual.

*If the child is out of control, then it may be necessary to physically hold him until he calms down. Be sure to say something like, “I can see that you are really angry right now and I’m going to hold you until you calm down.” This can be comforting to a child who is frightened by his own emotions.

If the tratrums increase in frequency and durations, then there are a few questions that should be thoughtfully considered. What behavioral feedback is the caregiver providing during and immediately after the temper tantrums? Is the caregiver responding to the tantrums with frustration, anger, and a high-pitched voice or yelling? If so, then the caregiver is teaching the child that tantrums are appropriate. After all, that is nothing more than the adult version of a temper tantrum! This child’s behavioral issues can be resolved simply by setting a good example for him.

Is the child being nurtured? Are mommy and daddy spending enough time with him? To small children, a day is a tremendous amount of time. A child who is repeatedly shushed, put off,told that his parents are too busy to play, or left to his own for long periods of time will find other ways to get Mommy and Daddy’s attention. Often, adults are busy and, before they know it, the day is gone. Children who are not made a priority and properly nurtured will act out behaviorally. If this is the cause, then some quality time with Mom and Dad should resolve the problem. Parents must guard the emotional health of their children.

How are things at home? Are things stressful? If so, the caregiver must realize that children are immensely perceptive to stress and anxiety. They do not know what to do with those burdens. Instead, they show their stress the only way that they know how. If this is the tantrum trigger, caregivers must be extremely cautious in dealing with the child’s tantrums. In this case, the child needs to be made to feel secure. Scolding will only cause the emotional distress to multiply, thus bringing more tantrums.

If, after looking closely at a child’s tantrums, behaviors, and surrounding environment, the caregiver feels that the behavior is truly manipulative, then a plan must be in place for dealing with the tantrum. If this is the case, then there is only one other thing to do. Quietly and gently take the child to a chair and a mat reserved for tantrums. If the child will walk, gently take his hand and lead him. If he has thrown himself on the floor, then gently pick him up and carry him. Place him on chair/mat, squat down to look into his eyes and gently say, “You must stay here until you can stop throwing a fit. When you have stopped, you may get up.” Then walk away calmly and ignore any further noise. Should the child get up and resume his previous position, simply take him back to the chair/mat and place him there without talking to him. You may have to spend an exhausting amount of time doing this, and you may have to do it repeatedly. However, it will be worth it in the end because you will have taught him that manipulation will not work.

After the child has calmed down, then talk to him about what happened. Never belittle. Instead show him how to express himself in a more desirable manner. Tantrums often scare and confuse children and they need to know that even though you dislike how they behaved, you sill love them.