How to Deal with Temper Tantrums

Daughter throwing a tantrum.

The Inevitability of Temper Tantrums

If you have children, you will eventually have to deal with temper tantrums. They can be frustrating and, if you’re in public, even embarrassing, and can prompt you to have an emotional response. Often, a parent dealing with a temper tantrum would do anything to make it stop, from threatening to cajoling to even giving in to the demands of their little emotional terrorist. Don’t do any of these things; we’ve got some tips for more effective temper tantrum management.

What are Tantrums?

Tantrums can take many different forms. They can involve whining, crying, screaming, kicking, hitting, and breath-holding. Some kids bite, flail about, arch their backs, stiffen their limbs, or even run away, and others break things or hurt themselves or others in the throes of a tantrum. Tantrums are most common in children who are one to three years old, and they’re equally common in boys and girls. Little children who haven’t quite learned how to communicate their emotions and needs might get frustrated and throw tantrums. Tantrums can happen with older children too, though, if they haven’t yet learned how to safely express and manage their feelings.

Why Tantrums Happen

Tantrums are a normal part of child development; they’re a way for young children to show that they are frustrated or upset. They’re common when children are developing language skills and can’t necessarily communicate what they want or need, so tantrums tend to decrease as children master the art of communication. However, tantrums are also about control. There is a power struggle that happens when children want things and those things are not given to them, and many children respond to this struggle with tantrums. Children who are older than three or four may still throw tantrums, if they have not learned how to deal with their negative emotions, particularly if they’ve discovered that tantrums get them what they want.

Factors That Play Into Tantrums

There are certain things that make tantrums more likely. Certain children, particularly those who are very sensitive, just seem to have a temperament more prone to strong reactions to frustration and changes in their environment. Most children struggle with remaining calm if they are stressed, hungry, tired, or overstimulated, and strong emotions also tend to be overwhelming. Then, too, there are situations with which children just can’t cope. For instance, if an older child takes a toy from a toddler, that toddler is likely to lose control of his or her emotions. As children learn to self-regulate, tantrums will become less of a factor.

Dealing with Tantrums

  • Set your child up for success. If you know that a tired, hungry, overstimulated child is more likely to melt down, try to prevent that by keeping a regular schedule and making sure your child’s needs are met. Don’t take your child to the grocery store, for instance, at naptime, or before he or she has had something to eat. Help children understand their emotions when they’re not in the middle of a tantrum, by talking about feelings and using words that label emotions so they can name what they are experiencing.
  • Model good behavior. Don’t counter emotion with an emotional response, but remain calm during a tantrum. When something is frustrating you or causing you stress, talk about it honestly without emotional overreaction. Show your child how you stay calm by taking deep breaths or using other coping skills.
  • Give praise for successful management of emotions. If your child handles a frustrating situation nicely, give encouragement. Help the child to notice how it felt to stay calm and strong. Make sure to talk about specifics, praising and rewarding behaviors you’d like to see more often. Conversely, after a tantrum, talk about better ways the situation could have been managed.
  • Offer your kids some control. Little choices, like picking which kind of juice to drink or which outfit to wear, give a child a sense of independence. When it really doesn’t matter, let your children decide for themselves, so they learn to make decisions and gain a feeling of control.
  • Distract during a tantrum. Interest your child in an activity that will replace the negative behavior you’re trying to discourage. A change of scenery can also help, and sometimes this is as simple as taking a toddler outside or to another room.
  • Say yes when you can. Choose your battles, and if what the child is asking is not too outrageous, be flexible. You can even change your mind, but make sure that it doesn’t appear you’ve changed it in response to the tantrum.
  • Try a time-in. Sometimes, a tantrum can be extinguished by a parent staying close, offering comfort, and reassuring the child by acknowledging the feelings involved. When the child is a little older, try identifying and naming the emotion being expressed, and supporting the child during the calm-down process.

Helping Happy Families Thrive

We hope these tips on tantrums can help you create a happy, harmonious homelife. At the Center for Vasectomy Reversal, we love helping people grow their happy families. We pride ourselves on helping men improve their fertility through uncompromising, concierge-level patient care. Under the direction of Dr. Joshua Green, our team provides state-of-the-art treatment for men who need a reversal of their vasectomy or have other fertility concerns. To learn more, contact us through our website or call 941-894-6428.