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5 Fast Ways to Subdue Your Child’s Worst Temper Tantrum

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Help your kids calm down without losing your cool.

Tantrums occur when a child’s system of managing her feelings and thoughts collapses. It’s an expression in external action of internal feelings over which the child is seeking control. The best thing you can do as a parent is learn to understand the reason for the tantrums, to face the outburst without losing your composure and to help your child find a better way of displaying her intense emotions.

Temper tantrums may look similar, but the reasons for them vary considerably. A typical sign of a problem is when the child has trouble tolerating being told “No” in response to something he wants. This is often seen as the cause, but it’s usually evidence of inner difficulties that need to be deciphered in order to help the child. A tantrum that follows a parent or caregiver saying “No” is usually just the tip of the iceberg. Internal and external stressors prior to that have paved the way for the tantrum. Look for meaning beyond how the child reacts to the word “No.”

Children with ADHD, learning disabilities or sensory problems deal with additional frustrations compared to other children, so they’re more likely to have tantrums. Similarly, children with anxiety, phobias, depression, experiences of traumatic events or a tendency to feel over-stimulated may fall apart when they’re overwhelmed with excessive worries and fears.

Use these tips to help interpret and subdue the emotions behind your child’s temper tantrums:

1. Help your child name feelings. Early on, teach youngsters feeling language, like happy, sad, mad and glad. As they grow older, give them the nuances of anger, such as irritated, frustrated, disappointed, annoyed and hurt. Vocabulary is important in helping the child to assess how angry he feels and why. Naming the emotions gives him the opportunity to express himself in words rather than physical actions when he’s upset.

2. Acknowledge the anger. It’s important that you tolerate angry feelings and not try to dissuade your child or teen from having these feelings. Your child or teen shouldn’t feel that you’re afraid of his emotions or that you’ll judge him harshly for having them. A child or teen needs to know that having and expressing anger doesn’t make him a bad person.

3. Remain calm amid the storm. As a parent, the best way to help your child during a tantrum is to remain calm. Children need to know their tantrums aren’t so powerful and scary that you can’t withstand them. It’s important for the child to know that her anger doesn’t overpower you and that you’re able to hear and endure the anger. Experiencing anger can actually frighten your child, and she needs to know that having and expressing such emotions doesn’t frighten you, too. This will help her to know that she can share her feelings with you.

4. Teach self-regulation. When the tantrum behavior slips outside the home, embarrassment becomes a part of the equation. You may need to take fast action in order to prevent humiliation for both you and your child. If possible, attend quickly to what the child needs or remove the child from the situation. Leaving a public place is not a way to punish the child—it’s a way to quickly reduce the 
stimulation and stop the outburst. Later, when everyone is calm, speak to your child about the situation. If the child is very young, her attention span is likely to be short, but a quick description of the problem along with a simple and easy rule like this can work: “Being upset belongs at home where we can solve problems.” Containing her anger and delaying its expression until a more appropriate time can only be internalized by a child if the parent also follows the tenets of self-regulation.

5. Help to ease transitions. Children who have difficulty with unexpected or planned transitions between activities may tantrum at those times or immediately afterward. You can prepare a younger child for a planned transition by advising him there are five minutes left before the change. You can give an older child an idea of the sequence of activities for the day so he feels prepared for what’s ahead. 


Tantrums that last more than half an hour and are unusually intense with flailing limbs and shocking shrieks where the child or teen seems to be unaware of the world around her may end in the youngster being exhausted, falling asleep, and later not remembering the tantrum. These actions and emotions, especially in children four years and older, are not typical and need special attention. Some young people who have tantrums, particularly later in life, may have a neurological disorder such as a bipolar disorder.

Laurie Hollman, Ph.D, is a psychoanalyst with specialized clinical training in infant-parent, child, adolescent, and adult psychotherapy a unique practice that covers the life span. Dr. Hollman is widely published on topics relevant to parents and children such as juried articles and chapters in the international Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, The International Journal of Infant Observation and the Inner World of the Mother. She is the author of Unlocking Parental Intelligence—Finding Meaning in Your Child’s Behavior, winner of the Mom’s Choice Award, and the Busy Parent’s Guides series of books: The Busy Parent’s Guide to Managing Anxiety in Children and Teens—The Parental Intelligence Way, and The Busy Parent’s Guide to Managing Anger in Children and Teens—The Parental Intelligence Way (Familius, Aug. 1, 2018). Learn more at lauriehollmanphd.com.

 

This article was written by Laurie Hollman Ph.D from Working Mother and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

How To Measure Whether Your Child’s Tantrums Are Normal

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In the throes of your toddler’s rage, it’s perfectly healthy to wonder whether you’re observing normal childhood behavior, or the beginnings of a behavioral problem. Here’s how to know for sure.

Fortunately, there’s a way to measure whether your child’s tantrums are abnormal. The temper tantrum scale, developed by Lauren Wakschlag of Northwestern University in Chicago, identifies normal tantrum behaviors and duration. Her study also highlights red flags parents can use to determine whether their children are acting out more aggressively than expected.

Meet The Temper Tantrum Scale

Answer the following questions with “never in the past month”, “less than once per week”, “1-3 days per week”, “4-6 days of the week”, “every day of the week”, or “many times each day”:

How often does your child…

  1. Have a temper tantrum
  2. Stamp feet or hold breath during a tantrum
  3. Have a tantrum that lasts more than 5 minutes
  4. Keep on having a tantrum even when you tried to calm him/her down
  5. Break or destroy things during a tantrum
  6. Have a tantrum until exhausted
  7. Hit, bite, or kick during a tantrum
  8. Lose temper or have a tantrum with a parent
  9. Lose temper or have a tantrum with other adults
  10. Lose temper or have a tantrum when frustrated, angry or upset
  11. Lose temper or have a tantrum when tired, hungry, or sick
  12. Lose temper or have a tantrum to get something he/she wants
  13. Lose temper or have a tantrum during daily routines such as bedtime or mealtime
  14. Lose temper or have a tantrum “out of the blue” or for no clear reason
  15. Become frustrated easily
  16. Yell angrily at someone
  17. Act irritably
  18. Have difficulty calming down when angry
  19. Become angry very quickly
  20. Get extremely angry
  21. Have a hot or explosive temper
  22. Stay angry for a long time

OK, I Did It. Now What?

Certain behaviors on the list are normal even when they happen quite often—others, less so. To figure out which behaviors were truly abnormal, Wakschlag and colleagues surveyed nearly 1,500 preschoolers. She found that 95 percent of children engaged in certain behaviors with predictable frequency, and established this as the baseline. Presumably, abnormal behaviors are those behaviors along the tantrum scale that fall outside the 95th percentile—in other words, behaviors that 95 percent of children do not engage in. None of the tantrum behaviors on the list are abnormal if they occur less than once per week. When these behaviors crop up more frequently, however, there may be cause for concern. Here’s the breakdown:

The following are “abnormal” behaviors only if they occur 1-3 days per week, or more:

  1. Hit, bite, or kick during a tantrum
  2. Stay angry for a long time

These are “abnormal” behaviors only if they occur 4-6 days per week, or more:

  1. Stamp feet or hold breath during a tantrum
  2. Have a tantrum that lasts more than 5 minutes
  3. Keep on having a tantrum even when you tried to calm him/her down
  4. Break or destroy things during a tantrum
  5. Have a tantrum until exhausted
  6. Lose temper or have a tantrum with other adults
  7. Lose temper or have a tantrum during daily routines such as bedtime or mealtime
  8. Lose temper or have a tantrum “out of the blue” or for no clear reason
  9. Become frustrated easily
  10. Yell angrily at someone
  11. Act irritably
  12. Have difficulty calming down when angry
  13. Become angry very quickly
  14. Get extremely angry
  15. Have a hot or explosive temper

These are “abnormal” behaviors only if they occur every day, or multiple times per day:

  1. Have a temper tantrum
  2. Lose temper or have a tantrum with a parent
  3. Lose temper or have a tantrum when frustrated, angry or upset
  4. Lose temper or have a tantrum when tired, hungry, or sick
  5. Lose temper or have a tantrum to get something he/she wants

My Child Is Abnormal. What Now?

First of all, don’t panic. Most children will, at some point, do most of the things on this list, and not all abnormal tantrum behaviors are created equal. Wakschlag and her colleagues write that the most rare behaviors should be the most worrisome for parents. So if your child is, with any regularity, staying angry for a long time, or hitting, biting, or kicking during tantrums, that should concern you more than observing that your child “becomes frustrated easily” more often than average. The authors include a ranking of each tantrum behavior, broken down by severity.

If your child is experiencing tantrums that fall well outside the average, especially if those behaviors are ranked “severe” by Wakschlag, it may be time to seek professional help.

But if your kid is on the cusp of abnormal tantrum behavior, or tantruming more frequently than you’d like, there are some simple ways you can use tantrum research to tame your wild child. The key is to figure out what your children wants to obtain, and ensure that they do not get it by tantruming. They then learn, over the long term, that tantrums are ineffective negotiating tools.

Behavioral scientists recognize three types of tantrums: a demand for attention (hold me), a demand for tangibles (food, games, activities), and an escape from demand (I don’t want to get dressed). The first two can only be solved by ignoring the tantrum—age-old advice. But the third type of tantrum requires finesse. Because in this scenario, children pitch fits in the hopes of making their parents ignore them and not make them do what they don’t want to do. Instead, when a child throws a tantrum to avoid doing something, the correct approach is to “help” them do it. Placing your hands over their hands and forcing them to get dressed or eat their dinner teaches them that tantruming to avoid tasks leads to a worse outcome—loss of autonomy.

“Kids learn very quickly that you’re serious about this intervention and they comply,” tantrum expert Michael Potegal once told Fatherly. “They may grumble and fuss, but they will comply.”

 

This article was written by Fatherly from Huffington Post and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Taming the Tantrums

One of the truly gnarly limit-pushers is the temper tantrum.  These are the hallmark of the self-control wars in the early years.  They are distinct from the gut-wringing cries of the sick, wet, desperately hungry, or physically hurt infant or pre-toddler.  But they can look similar, and you can feel even more helpless.

Family - Teacher with Parent & ChildTantrums start to occur in that period of development when the “me do” surge for autonomy becomes increasingly frustrated by the parent who knows the toddler’s abilities are still so limited that trouble lurks behind most corners.  So when the child’s limited ability frustrates a particular goal, or a parent intervenes to rein her in, the internal frustrations can erupt into a screaming, kicking, crying rage.

Every time you help you child recover from such a debacle without humiliation or irrational punishment, she learns that her impulses cannot destroy her world and that you can help her learn how to manage this tiger, the way you did the other tigers of her early years – being left alone, being helplessly hungry, etc.

Finally, two pieces of advice about limit setting and self-control that are hard for many parents to remember.  When setting limits:

  • The fewer words the better.
  • Actions speak louder than words.