WHAT IS A TEMPER TANTRUM?
It is defined as “an angry outburst by someone who have lost their temper in reaction to something they did not want to happen.” Temper tantrums are common occurrence in the age group two- to four-year-olds, but older children and adults who did not develop emotional self-control also have temper tantrums.
- The child wants what they want and are persistent having this need met.
- React with a childish fit of rage.
- Lying on the floor, kicking and screaming.
- A child may also hold their breath.
- It could be considered “normal” if it occurs 2-3 times a week, and does not last longer than 5 minutes.
WHAT CAUSES TEMPER TANTRUMS?
- At the age two-to four year old, a child develops a good understanding of their own world and what happens in their world – knowing what they want.
- However, a child’s ability to verbally express themselves, their needs and their experience in expressing their needs is still limited because their vocabulary is still developing.
- The contrast between their ability to hear and understand, and their ability to verbally express themselves, causes frustration and leads to outbursts.
- At this age children have many skills to explore and discover, but not the skill to judge and determine the consequences of their actions.
- Limits for safety and the prevention of chaos is set by parents / caregivers, whilst children struggle to do what they want to do and this leads to temper tantrums.
CAN TEMPER TANTRUMS BE PREVENTED?
- It starts with the parent / caregiver themselves. The manner in which a parent / caregiver handles their own frustration / anger serves as a model / example to a child. By observing a parent or caregiver, children learn what is considered to be acceptable and appropriate behaviour. Parents who are unable to manage their own anger and frustration can not expect children to manage theirs.
- It is unrealistic to try and eliminate temper tantrums, but the intensity and frequency can be reduced.
- It is important to be realistic as to what can be expected at any given age. Children aged 2 -4 years old can not be expected to sit still for hours on end.
HOW DO I HANDLE TEMPER TANTRUMS?
- When children display frustration / anger it is an opportunity to teach them the words needed to express their emotion i.e I can see you are angry because….
- Be prepared for situations that may contribute to temper tantrums, i.e going to the shop to buy bread – not buying any sweets today. Make sure children understand the expectation and the consequence a tantrum occurs.
- Giving choices helps children learn to take control of their lives within the limitations of their age.
- Prepare children in advance when something is planned or must occur, i.e it is bath time in 10 minutes, so start packing up your toys in a few minutes.
- Reinforce positive behaviour and acknowledge when children cooperate – positive feedback, such as “I am proud of you or thank you” reinforce the positive rather than merely punishing the negative.
DOES IT EVER END???
- The frequency and intensity of the temper tantrums reduces over time if well managed.
- At the age of four children usually have developed some level of self-control and age-appropriate skills.
- If successfully managed by parents, children eventually grows out of temper tantrums. If not managed correctly – it remains into adulthood.
WHEN ARE TEMPER TANTRUMS A PROBLEM?
- When a child has not learned self-control and feelings of anger and frustration get expressed in forms of verbal and physical threats, it is a matter of concern and professional support and assistance is needed.