What causes temper tantrums?
As your young child learns more and becomes more independent, he will want to do more than he can physically and emotionally manage. This is frustrating to him, and the frustrations are expressed in a variety of ways. Temper tantrums are worse and occur more often when a child is hungry, tired, or sick. Some reasons children have temper tantrums include the following:
- Your child wants to be on his own, and get upset when he cannot do what he wants.
- Your child is trying to get attention to test the rules.
- Your child has something taken away from him.
- Your child has not learned all the words to tell you what he feels or wants, and this upsets him.
- Your child doesn't understand what you want him to do.
- Your child is tired or hungry.
- Your child is worried or upset.
- Your child feels stress in the home.
How to prevent temper tantrums
Although temper tantrums sometimes happen without warning, you can often tell when your child is becoming upset. Knowing the situations when your child is more likely to have a tantrum and thinking ahead may help. An example is not letting your child become overtired or hungry. Some suggestions for preventing or minimizing temper tantrums include the following:
- Stick to routines for meals and sleep times. Avoid long outings, delayed meals, and naps.
- Distract your child with a toy he is allowed to have.
- Be reasonable about what to expect from your child, and don't expect your child to be perfect.
- Help your child to avoid frustration. Prepare your child for changes or events by talking about them before they happen.
- Let your child know your rules and stick to them.
How to respond during a temper tantrum
The following are helpful hints regarding the most appropriate ways to respond during your child's temper tantrum:
- Stay calm.
- Ignore your child until he is calmer. Keep doing whatever you were doing prior to the tantrum occurring.
- Do not hit or spank your child.
- Do not give in to the tantrum. When you give in, your child learns to use inappropriate behavior to get his way.
- Do not "bribe" your child to stop the tantrum. The child then learns to act inappropriately to get a reward.
- Remove potentially dangerous objects from your child or your child's path.
- Use time-out for a short period to allow your child to get back in control.
What else should parents know about temper tantrums?
Temper tantrums generally happen less often as children get older. Children should play and act normally between tantrums. However, consult your child's physician if any of the following occur:
- Temper tantrums are severe, last long, or happen very often.
- Your child has a lot of trouble talking and cannot let you know what he needs.
- Temper tantrums continue or get worse after 3 to 4 years of age.
- Your child has signs of illness along with temper tantrums or holds his breath to cause fainting.
- Your child harms himself or others during tantrums.