How to stop temper tantrums is frequently disputed. First, a parent or caregiver must bear in mind that temper tantrums are a part of development, especially to children between the ages of one to three. They may occur later, as well. Frequent temper tantrums in an older child should be investigated for possible psychological or physical causes.
The child experiencing temper tantrums is usually emotionally overwhelmed. With language skills still being acquired, articulating wants and needs may be challenging. Even children with advanced language skills are still figuring out how to name emotions, and what to do with feelings of intense emotion. This is also the case with some adults, so children are not exactly alone here.
Children may throw a tantrum when their wishes are opposed, if they are having a time out for misbehaving, or if they cannot get a caregiver’s attention in any other way. They are more vulnerable to tantrums when tired or hungry or when they feel neglected by parents. Some temper tantrums may be completely avoided by seeing to a child’s physical and emotional needs before it progresses to a tantrum.
If a child makes a request, parents should consider it before instantly saying no. Many temper tantrums begin when children’s requests are never honored. Reasonable requests should be accommodated, as this gives the child a feeling of control. When a request is unreasonable or can’t be honored, the result may of course be temper tantrums.
Children throwing temper tantrums do not respond to reasoned explanations of their behavior. Tantrums tend to escalate when the caregiver becomes upset. So keeping calm is quite important. At the same time, the parent may make comments that give children the emotional language that helps them express their feelings in less negative ways. “I see you are very angry and disappointed that we can’t have a playdate today,” might be an appropriate response.
Most child developmental experts agree that hitting or spanking is not a good response to temper tantrums. Though this might stop a tantrum, it asserts the position that a child can get what he or she wants by hitting. Future tantrums may incorporate hitting the caregiver or another child. Yelling at the child is likely to result in the child yelling back. The goal is to calm and soothe the child before dealing with behavior infractions or issues relating to what started the tantrum.
Once you have articulated the child’s feelings in a calm way, you may want to have a safe space for the child to throw temper tantrums. Usually ignoring a temper tantrum of short duration is feasible when the child is placed in an environment where he or she cannot destroy property or get injured. Ignoring the tantrum as much as possible teaches the child that he or she will not get much attention from this type of expression.
Alternately, one may want to try to distract the child. If you notice the early signs of an impending tantrum, introducing a new topic, game, or idea may keep a tantrum from starting. During a tantrum, this occasionally works as well. As the tantrum progress, however, distraction is more difficult.
When temper tantrums last more than a few minutes, you may want to approach the child again, and tell the child you are there to help them calm down. Some children will now respond to being held and spend a little while crying in your arms. If children are being particularly destructive and you fear for their safety, you may have to safely hold them sooner. The hold should restrict movement, but should not be so tight as to hurt them.
Once the tantrum is over, do not give in on the issue causing the tantrum. Children who realize that tantrums will achieve the desired end will have more temper tantrums in the future. Instead, distract focus to another activity unrelated to the tantrum. Try not to get angry, or remain angry with a child who has tantrums. Sometimes it is very natural to feel angry or upset, but tantrums are for the most part, a normal part of development. Your calm handling of temper tantrums will in most cases help the child develop beyond this state.
Lastly, if your child’s tantrum has caused you to spank or yell, you should apologize to your child. If you often spank or yell during a tantrum, you might consider seeking the guidance of a parent group, doctor or therapist, who can help you find ways to control your anger. Chances are, if you can’t learn this control, your child will not learn it either.