A tantrum... now what?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Tantrums, they can cause feelings of helplesslessness, fearfulness, anxiety, a feeling of being overwhelmed and even anger. That is just what the parents may be experiencing.
What do they mean for the child?

In order to properly deal with a tantrum, it is important that you as a parent remain in control and become aware of how you feel when your child is acting out. By being aware of your emotions you will become more prepared to handle situations including tantrums your child displays.
Being aware of your feelings when your child is acting out is important so you know what limits you have and where to draw the boundary for or with your child. Some parenting feelings may include feeling annoyed, irritated, manipulated, hurt, angry, frustrated, inadequate or even pity for the child. These feelings may also depend on whether your child is carrying out a specific type of tantrum, ie. The “helpless” tantrum, the “demonstrative” tantrum or the “silent” tantrum.

Some tantrums will require you to move toward your child to console them, other tantrums will require you to ignore your child but how do you know when to do what. Margot Sunderland, author of The Science of Parenting, describes tantrums that may be controlling or manipulating and other tantrums that may be emotionally fuelled. How to identify what is happening in a tantrum:

Is your child crying tears when the tantrum occurs? Yes No
Is your child arguing back or verbalise his/her demands when you say “no”? Yes No

• If your child is crying tears and unable to verbalise his/her demands, your child may be having an emotionally fuelled tantrum.

• If your child has no tears, can argue or make demands or verbalise during a tantrum it may be a controlling or manipulating tantrum.

Strategies to handle a tantrum:
• Be aware of how you feel.
• Don’t belittle or humiliate your child when they are having a tantrum. If your child is experiencing a ‘demonstrative’ tantrum he/she should ‘lose’ with dignity and pay attention to him/her immediately after they calm down. You are the adult and not in competition with your child.
• If your child is young and you can identify that the situation is difficult for him/her to understand and he/she may be feeling strong emotional response to a situation it is okay to provide comfort. It is impossible to reason with a young child and even more so when they are at the height of a tantrum.
• By ignoring the tantrum you will be less likely to give in.
• With an older child feedback what you saw happen or what you think the child’s emotional state was.

Why tantrums happen:
Some triggers for tantrums involve hunger, tiredness, tension, understimulation or boredom. Emotional triggers involve feelings such as frustration, disappointment or loss. Children may not have words to express their frustration so empathise with them and reflect back what you see.

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