Child Tantrums

The child who throws tantrums to get his or her way is exhausting to parents, and worrying and embarrassing too.
But tantrums can be managed out of existence, with patience and determination on the part of parents and other family members. Getting help from a counsellor or psychologist as soon as you feel challenged by your child’s tantrum behaviour will help you provide the leadership and modelling he or she needs.

Why do children throw tantrums?

Children do what they find to be effective in getting them what they want and then repeat the behaviour.  Children who use tantrums have learned that tantrums work; they produce the desired results.  And, as long as the tantrums work, why would an intelligent child give them up?

If you have a child that uses tantrums as a means of
getting what they want, there a few things you can do to help the child and yourself.
(1) Keep in mind that children don’t invent new strategies.  They simply copy what they’ve seen others do.  Look at where they might have learned to throw a tantrum.  Are they copying the adults in the household?
(2) If your child is seeing an adult throw their weight around verbally or physically, and if the adult has everyone doing their bidding as a result, you might want to change things among the bigger people first.
(3) Children also model their strategies for getting their needs met by watching TV or older children.  Again, do what is necessary to remove those models because they are not what you want for your child.
(4) The next thing you can do is to look at how the tantrum gets your child what he or she wants.  Notice whether the tantrum results in someone giving in to the child and offering a payoff, whether it be lollies, skipping chores, getting a new toy at the shops or not having to clean teeth or take a bath. 

What works for the child will not be easily stopped.  So remove the payoff.  This is how…..

• A shopping centre tantrum to get a ride.  After saying no,  take a seat and wait it out (other parents will understand).  Be prepared to welcome your child into your arms when they are stopping and seeking the secure base of your lap.
• A public tantrum with risk-taking escalation.  Quietly tell your child you are going to keep him or her safe by containing them in a hug until they can let you know that it’s safe to let go.

A tantrum in a vehicle.  Pull over and  wait it out.

• A tantrum with thrown objects or damage.  Remove dangerous materials such as glass and if it is safe to do so, leave the room, telling your child (quietly) you’ll see them when they are calmer.
• A tantrum with other children as a target.  Quietly remove the target child and give that child  your attention.

Dealing with the fall out from a tantrum…….

• When a tantrum has resulted in a mess, provide some age-appropriate support to your child to ensure that they clean up.

• Use humour.  It’s ok to say to your child that you’ll join them and then get on the floor for a kick and a scream or two.  Enjoy the silliness of the moment and avoid ridiculing the child.
• Reward the child’s return to normal functioning by offering positive activities when they are calm, or by providing a grin and a cuddlle.

• Help your children to learn how to soothe themselves.  It’s a skill they will need in adulthood.  Use music, have a dance or a drum, run around the yard, offer a bath or a play with the hose, encourage your child to cuddle a household pet for the soothing effects your child can pick up from a loving animal.  Teach them deep breathing and meditation techniques.
• Make sure that the behaviour you do want is rewarded with warm appreciation and approval.

Resist the temptation to yell back at your tantrum child.  Do the opposite.  Become quieter, calmer, and more patient.  If you can, let go of your push to get home on schedule because time spent in getting on top of tantrum behaviour will be well spent.  It will save you time and grief in the long run.
The younger the child is when beginning tantrum control, the better the outcome.

Everybody has seen what a tantrum child can be like when he or she reaches the teen years and is unable to cooperate with others,  unable to wait for gratification of wishes, and unable to soothe their own impulses.

As the parent, with appropriate guidance and counselling from a trained practitioner, you can quickly learn to manage tantrum behaviour.   If you have any questions about whether your child’s behaviour needs professional attention then give me a call (Phone: to 0424 002 640) to discuss your problem.  It is important that you and your child develop a more productive skill set as early as possible in life.

If you found this article helpful then you may wish to read another article by Rosalin which deals more detailed information on (click here) Child Therapy in general.

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Rosalin Primrose

MA, Reg Psychologist, FDRP

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