Taming Tantrums

Nov 03, 2012 No Comments by

Dictionaries define a tantrums simply as ‘a fit of bad temper’. But to parents standing by as their cheerful toddler, one moment all sweetness and smiles, suddenly transforms into a writhing, flailing mound of unrestrained rage, tantrums defy such simplistic definitions. Just what is this force that turns little cherubs into a little monsters?

Normal, that’s what. Tantrums are a fact of toddler life, a behaviour that’s virtually universal among members of the sand-pit set – beginning for some as early as the end of the first year, peaking for most sometimes in the second year, and continuing in many children until beyond your age four. Toddlers aren’t ‘bad’ when they’re having tantrums – they’re just acting their age.



What’s behind Your Toddler’s tantrum?

There are a number of reasons why tantrums are ‘DC’ (developmentally correct) for toddlers – a normal part of growing up:

  1. The need to release frustration. The toddler’s strong drives for mastery and autonomy are continually stymied, either by adults of by their own limitations (being unable to complete a puzzle, button a shirt, ride an older sibling’s bike, say what they mean).
  2. The need to express their feelings, needs and wishes. Most toddlers don’t yet have the language skills to do this. For them, a tantrum speaks louder than words.
  3. The need to assert themselves and to send message, ‘I am important. What I want counts.
  4. Lack of control over their lives. With adults telling them what to do and what not to do, a tantrum is often the only way toddlers can sat ‘Enough! This is my life!’
  5. Lack of control over their emotions. Toddlers are inexperienced at checking their emotions. When emotions get out of control, so do toddlers.
  6. Hunger, exhaustion, overstimulation, boredom.
  7. Too many choices, too few limits or vice versa.

Though virtually every toddler has a tantrum now and the, some are especially tantrum-prone. About 14% of one-year-olds, 20% of two and three-year-olds, and 11% of four-year-olds have what’s considered ‘frequent’tantrums (that is, two or more a day). These children also seem more likely than other children to continue having tantrums well into the preschool and school years.

taming tantrums

taming tantrums

There are a variety of less common factors that can lead to these more-frequent-than-average tantrums:

  1. Genetic predisposition. Some children are born with temperamental qualities that predispose them to more frequent tantrums. For example, persistence, or stubbornness (great traits when a toddler is working resolutely on a particularly difficult puzzle, but not when it’s me to put it aside and get ready for bed); high intensity (these kids react strongly to almost any situation, often with kicking and screaming); slow adaptability (these children are most prone to tantrums in the face of unexpected change).
  2. Extremes of discipline. In a chronically permissive atmosphere, conspicuously lacking in limits, children may ‘act out’ or misbehave in a cry for external controls. Or they may blow up because they are overwhelmed by too many choices when their parents leave too much of the decision-making to them. In an overly strict home, the child may explode in hope of expanding boundaries that are too tight.
  3. A history of illness, chronic disabilities, or health problems. Parents are more likely to treat as ‘special’ the child who has had serious medical problems or who was born after many miscarriages or along period of trying. Because of lack of limits and discipline, these children can be prone to tantrums. Also particularly subject to tantrums are children who are hearing impatient or have severe speech or other communication problems; who are autistic or have other serious developmental disabilities; who are hyperactive who have allergies or recurrent minor illnesses. Certain medications, such as those mean to halt seizures, are also linked to tantrums.
  4. A parent-child personality clash. If you’re outgoing and your toddler is quiet and shy, pushing your child to be more like you could lead to unnecessarily frequent tantrums. So could trying to tone down a high-intensity child just because you’re laid back.
  5. Divorced or separated parents. The custodial parents may be overwhelmed by solo child-care chores and have little time for the toddler; the visiting parent may be overly permissive. Both may try to ‘woo’ the child with gifts and special privileges. In such situations, the frustrated child is more prone to explode willy-nilly and may learn to use tantrums to control one or both parents.
  6. Parental personal problems, such as depression, overwork, worry, illness, or financial difficulties. When a parent’s problem start becoming their child’s, frequent tantrums can result. Poor, crowded living condition can also participate a child to erupt more often.

After The Baby Is Born, The Toddlers Year
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