Explaining Temper Tantrums and How to Handle Them

Being a parent is truly a magical experience. There is nothing quite like watching your child explore and begin to understand the world around them, seeing them laugh, and witnessing the wonder and curiosity in their eyes. Your heart is theirs and you can’t imagine your life without them. However, as you very well know, it is not always sunshine and rainbows. In a matter of seconds, your little one can transform from a happy-go-lucky kiddo into a screaming and tearful ball of emotion. The worst part is, this often happens for no apparent reason (and usually in public)!

Don’t worry, you are not alone! These dreaded temper tantrums are a common part of childhood development. In fact, if someone tells you that their kid doesn’t have tantrums it’s likely that they are either fibbing or they have won the equivalent to the lottery. For the majority of parents, tantrums are simply inevitable, but there are a few things that you can do to help alleviate the situation.

Here at Child Time, Inc., we would like to help! In this blog post, we will help you to better understand your child’s tantrums, ways in which to prevent them, as well as how to calm them down once it has begun. If you would like more information about our child-centered care and learning center and the Reggio Emila inspired curriculum that we offer in Salt Lake City, then please don’t hesitate to contact us today!

What Is a Tantrum?

Okay, let’s get this out of the way. Some tantrums that children have are actually pretty funny. They can get upset over the smallest things! From not having the exact number of chicken nuggets that they think should be on their plate to being told that they can’t jump into the fountain at the mall, oftentimes it’s nearly impossible not to laugh at what they think is a dire situation. But the truth is, it really is a big deal to them! Tantrums mostly occur with toddlers from the ages of 1 to 3, which makes sense because at these ages they are just trying to figure out what is going on around them and how to control their emotions.

To put it simply, they are experiencing a wave of disappointment, frustration, and anger and do not know how to express it. This usually leads to crying, piercing screams, holding their breath, kicking, or throwing objects. Basically, they become an emotional tornado. The good news is that tantrums are usually pretty short-lived, only lasting a few minutes or so.

What Are the Causes?

As a parent, it is important for you to remember that your child is trying to learn how to — well, how to be themselves! This early in their childhood development, they don’t know what the heck is going on or how to handle this crazy thing called life. They are just beginning to grasp the concept of language so, therefore, when they are confused or upset about something, they can’t simply say “I am mad and this is the reason why!”, so they end up resorting to tantrums. While there are a multitude of situations that can cause these outbursts (some more reasonable than others) here are a few of the most common:

  • They are hungry, tired, or thirsty
  • They are struggling to figure out a situation or do a task
  • They don’t know the words to express their feelings
  • They feel helpless or lost
  • They are simply frustrated about something that they don’t understand

Remember that these situations will not last very long and that when their vocabulary and language skills begin to develop, the tantrums will happen less frequently and will be less intense as well.

What Can You Do?

As we previously stated, tantrums are inevitable during your child’s younger years, there is no secret cure to prevent them from happening, but there are a few things that you can do to decrease the chances of one or help them get through it. The best piece of advice that we can give you is to just take a deep breath and be patient! We know that it can be incredibly frustrating and also embarrassing, but remember that all parents experience it and that it is not going to last. If you get angry during the situation, it is only going to make matters worse!

Children don’t like being caught by surprise, so another tip that we can offer is to try and keep their schedule consistent. This includes their mealtimes, naptime (why isn’t this a thing for adults as well?), bedtime, and any other activity that is frequently in their daily schedules. Also, avoid any triggers that will set them off. An example of this is not letting them anywhere near the toy section when you are out shopping, unless, of course, you are planning on buying them one.

Also, try to restrict the number of times that you tell them “no”. While in certain circumstances they need to be told that they are in the wrong, a lot of times they don’t understand why they can’t do a certain task or get what they want. Provide them with options for other activities that they could partake in.

So what do you do when the tantrum does happen? The first thing that you need to do is stay calm. Set a good example for them and teach them that there is no reason to lose their cool. Also, let them know that by throwing a tantrum, they are not going to get what they want. This is incredibly important to remember! If you reward them for their inappropriate behavior, they are just going to do it more often with the assumption that that is the best way to get what they want. If you are in the comfort of your own home, you can simply send them to their room until they calm down. If you are in public, bring them into a restroom or another quiet place and give them time to relax. Once the tantrum is over, do your best to politely tell them that the correct way to express their feelings or their frustrations is through their words, not by throwing a fit.

Do You Need Professional Help?

Unfortunately for some parents, the tantrums either never end or become more intense. In these circumstances, you may need to ask yourself if they need some professional help from their pediatrician or a child therapist. Signs that this is your best option is if the tantrums continue or get more intense after they are four years old, if their language skills don’t seem to be developing at the appropriate speed, or if you believe that they are going to cause harm to themselves or to others. If this is the situation that you are currently undergoing, then it is best to find a solution to the problem sooner rather than later. They could be suffering from psychological or even physical issues that need to be remedied.

We know that it can be frustrating dealing with these tantrums, but it’s simply a part of parenting! Remind yourself that it is temporary and think of all of the times where they make your heart full and your smile go from ear to ear. It may be tough for you, but remember at their young age, it is especially difficult for them as well!

At Child Time Inc., we have discovered children who are independent (allowed to do things for themselves), engaged and curious will have fewer temper tantrums. Through our Reggio Emilia-inspired curriculum children are constantly exploring and engaging, therefore, we find that children have less need for temper tantrums. Here in Salt Lake City, we provide a fun and safe environment for your little one to grow and to learn. If you would like to learn more or are looking to enroll your child, then please feel free to give us a call today!

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