You will certainly be familiar with these situations or similar ones: your child throws themselves on the floor and, for some reason trivial to you, starts to scream or thump their fists and feet on the floor. They will not be spoken to and simply want to let out their anger. Stubborn kids can really get on their parents’ nerves, so it’s good to know that tantrums are important for child development.
Why do tantrums happen?
In the so-called tantrum phase, children realise that they are independent people with their own thoughts and desires. They are testing their limits and are totally determined to get their way. If that doesn’t work they sometimes react with silent defiance – in that they withdraw into themselves and no longer want to eat or drink anything – but more often they react with outbursts of temper. One comfort for all parents:
the violent outbursts usually last only a few minutes up to an hour. They help children to deal with their needs and the needs of others. If you deal with your child’s tantrums correctly they will learn to negotiate a compromise and will develop a solid sense of self-assurance.
How to reduce temper tantrums
Allow your child as much space as possible, don’t make too many things forbidden, but set out clear rules. If you have said “no” once you must keep to this without fail. Otherwise your child may use a tantrum as a form of pressure the next time around.
Supermarkets are favourite places for tantrums: you are in the supermarket and your child reaches for some sweets, for example. You put the sweets back and your child runs riot, screaming. Any bystanders lapse into an embarrassed silence, make comments or give you unnecessary advice. To avoid this type of situation, try talking through with your child what you want to buy before going to the supermarket. Apples or pears? Meat or fish? Your little angel can then choose a small treat all by themselves to put in the shopping trolley.
Before you set off shopping, or if something else urgent must be done, if your child is immersed in a game give him or her some advance warning. Children have no sense of time as yet. They forget the whole world around them when they are playing. If you let your child know in advance they can get themselves ready.
Can your child dress him or herself? If yes, let them do so – even if it takes longer. Otherwise there is bound to be a tantrum.
How should you react when a tantrum occurs?
While tantrums can be reduced, they cannot be altogether avoided. Stay calm and composed when your child is having an outburst. When your little darling is throwing a fit, maintain eye contact as much as possible. Your child can then see that you are staying calm and are not ready to get angry.
After the outburst it is best to go over the plan for the day, but it is fine to show that you are disappointed. You need not worry that your child will not be able to cope with conflicts like this. When you explain your feelings your child can learn over time, with your help, to take a constructive approach. You should not, however, punish defiance, since it is part of your child’s development, like crawling, or learning to talk.
When your child has calmed down again, give them a hug and comfort them. They will therefore feel your affection and know that you love them, even if they want something different to you. This gives your child strength and security.
There are days when you can do what you want – your defiant child will not react to you. It can sometimes help, however, to suggest something nice to them, e.g. looking at a book together, or laying the table together, when they have calmed down.