What should I do about temper tantrums?

“I want this now!” shouts a two-year-old, pulling candy off a grocery shelf.

“Not today,” says his mother.

“Yes, I want candy!”

When his mother again refuses, the child responds with a full-fledged temper tantrum: screaming, crying, thrashing, and kicking. Tantrums like this are hard to watch, they are embarrassing, and they can make parents feel helpless.

Why do children have tantrums? At times, the child is simply overtired or hungry. Most often, however, the answers are rooted in developmental characteristics. Children have very little self-control; they live in the here and now and act on their immediate desires. When Parents respond to a child’s wishes by saying “no,” he reacts negatively sometimes sensing rejection. Young children lack the ability to think logically and follow adult reasoning. A child will probably not understand why his parents deny one of his wishes, even, though their explanations may make perfect sense to them. Another reason for temper tantrums, particularly with preverbal toddlers, is the young child’s inability to express his needs and wants fully. When his parents can’t understand him, he becomes easily frustrated.

If you’re concerned about temper tantrums, there are a number of approaches you can try, including prevention. Since you know your child’s wants, you can guess which situations are likely to cause tantrums and plan ahead for these times. For example, when you anticipate a struggle at the candy counter or when shopping at a mall, carry a few small toys, some juice, or crackers with you. If the situation becomes tense, use these to distract your child. You also can set limits for your three- or four-year-old before you leave the house: “We’re only looking today,” or, “Remember, I’m only buying you one thing.” Try to be sure he understands the limits, but remember it’s hard for him to “only look” and not buy.

There’s another technique that may prevent a tantrum: compromise. You can tell your child, “I won’t buy candy, but I will buy you a pretzel.” This and the other prevention methods sometimes work well, but at times he may have a temper tantrum in spite of your efforts. If this happens, you’ll have to decide how to respond. Most likely your reaction will vary with the situation, depending on where you are and whom you’re with. But your choices will be the same-you can meet your child’s demand, distract him, or let him have the tantrum.

You may choose to meet his demand because you realize that it’s not so unreasonable after all. Perhaps you were being too rigid when you first rejected his request. Or perhaps you feel that saying “no” is not worth the struggle or tantrum.

If you don’t give in to your child, you may try distracting him. Remind him about a recent pleasurable experience, point out something interesting, or talk about something good that will happen soon ‘you may be surprised at how effective distraction can be in defusing a conflict.

Finally, you may choose to let the tantrum run its course. Although coping can be hard, if you wait calmly, your child will soon quiet down. Just be sure he’s safe during his tantrum and unable to harm himself or others or cause any damage.

Tantrums are difficult for you and your young child. But as he grows older he’ll gain more understanding and you’ll find it easier to set limits. Once he outgrows that urgent need to have everything now, there will be far fewer tantrums to struggle with.

Picture Credit : Google