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Posts Tagged ‘Temper tantrums’

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.

Temper Tantrums: The Parental Armageddon

It’s a universally recognizable scenario which qualifies as the Armageddon of parenthood. A red face; ear piercing, soul scratching, vocal cord hemorrhaging screams and body thrashing – all characteristics of the temper tantrum. As a father of four, and grandfather, I’ve seen hundreds of temper tantrums. Each and every one has left me feeling more or less spent, not to mention saddened as a parent. Where do they come from and what can be done about them? During the holiday season, when they tend to peak, it seems timely to review what might be helpful.

The most common age for this behavior is between 3 ½ and 4 ½ years – the twelve to eighteen months before they start kindergarten. Tantrums seem to cluster around those moments when your children – and often you – are hungry, tired, scurrying about, running late and/or stressed out. It’s important to remember that they don’t usually ‘come out of nowhere’ – they tend to be a last straw for your child. Developmentally, they occur when children are struggling to manage their bodies (often having just finished toilet training) and their emotions (aggression, frustration).

My colleagues at Yale’s Parenting Center have been looking at temper tantrum management for years and are on the right track from my view point. They have highlighted the single most critical component of the parent/child temper tantrum interaction – the parental tendency to equal the child’s emotional intensity. This is not helpful. Your child is almost completely unaware of the storm he/she’s making, so when you leap in emotionally and physically charged ‘to get your child’s attention and stop this,’ your child ‘reacts’ to your intensity and escalation is the name of the game.

Their advice (with which I concur):

  • Forget punishment and yelling. It could terrify or confuse your child, often has no relevance to their distress given their immature sense of cause and effect, and only briefly satisfies your need to be in control.
  • Stay calm. Count to ten, turn away briefly, bite your lip, and above all – breathe – this way you won’t fuel the fire and it allows you and your child to recover more quickly.
  • Ignore the negative behavior. This de-escalates the tantrum faster than any other single thing a parent can do.
  • Turn your attention to praising the next ‘good thing’ your child does. Be very specific about what you appreciate and why, be sincere in your tone and behavior, and look them in the eye.

After a few weeks of these tactics, you’ll notice the tantruming is less frequent and less severe. One day you’ll look back and say, ‘Wow, it’s been months since the last meltdown.’

 

Tantrum Trimming Tips

It’s almost inevitable that a child will throw a tantrum at some point. Here are some great tips for tantrum prevention:

  • Incorporate relaxation time into your child’s daily schedule – play a game, visit a park, cuddle up and read a story
  • In stressful times, do your best to remain calm – be a good example and your child may follow your lead
  • Keep negatives to a minimum – saying “no” can cause frustration, try a phrase like “maybe later.”
  • Be aware and sympathetic during transitions – starting school, potty training or a new sibling could be stressors.
  • Make sure you’re listening to your child, not just hearing them – feeling understood and respected will go a long way.
  • Reward with praise and attention – reinforce good behavior with plenty of positive parenting.
  • Avoid shouting matches and harsh punishments – these reactions can make tantrums worse.
  • Laughter is the best medicine – try humor to defuse a situation, shift their mood with a tickle, hug or silly song.
  • Redirect – if you see a tantrum coming, shift your child’s attention to something new.

As children develop their language and comprehension skills, they usually tend to outgrow tantrums. In the meantime, the way you deal with them is important. Handling your child harshly or ignoring him/her altogether may cause tantrums to worsen and linger longer.

Encouraging Good Behavior in Public

Fostering respect and manners as well as establishing expectations, limits and consequences is a good preparation strategy for any public outing.  Setting examples of good public behavior is vital.

Parents should take advantage of teachable moments and be sure to reinforce the rules they have set.  Children need clear expectations and consequences explained to them on a consistent basis.  Prepare for positive outings by planning ahead.  Parents can help to prevent bad behavior by avoiding major disruptions in their child’s normal routine and schedule.  Make sure trips to the mall, market or your friend’s house do not cause children to skip a snack, meal or nap.

When your child exhibits good behavior, be sure to acknowledge it with a ‘thank you.’  Praise for a job well done goes a long way.  Positive reinforcement instills pride and motivates children to make good behavior a habit.  Resorting to bribes teaches children to value material rewards over intrinsic satisfaction.  Your encouragement and praise will more often be incentive enough and build your child’s self confidence.  Applied on a daily basis, these lessons can help your little one develop into a much friendlier companion, guest and citizen at home as well as in public.