Coping with Temper Tantrums

Recognizing a trigger can prepare you for coping with temper tantrums in your child. At some point in every child's life, he will find a reason to complain, whine and throw a tantrum. Tantrums are a normal part of a child's development. As a parent, you can expect to observe a tantrum or two as your child grows. Depending on the outburst, you might find the situation easily overcome or difficult to manage. Certain situations, like bedtime, baths, dinner or the arrival of visitors can trigger a tantrum. 

You may find yourself embarrassed by your child's lack of self control. Don't be. Your child will pick up on your embarrassment, which may exacerbate the problem.

Behaviors to watch out for include the frequency and severity of the tantrum. Remember, your child is testing his boundaries.

Age determines how to handle a tantrum. From 18 months through two years of age, your child is asserting his independence. When he doesn't achieve a goal, he becomes frustrated, but he lacks the words to explain what's wrong. Hence, the tantrum. Arguing with a child in this age group will make things worse because they do not yet have advanced cognitive abilities.

Children aged three to four should have the verbal capabilities to articulate their needs. After age four, your child's physical and fine motor skills are developed enough that he should be less dependent on you. Some may have tantrums based on school or home situations, but generally, the days of ranting and raving have passed.
Here are a few prevention methods to tame your little tiger. 

  • Reward and praise positive behavior instead of focusing on negative actions. This advice is especially helpful when a situation acts as a trigger.
  • Announce your expectations instead of asking if your child wants to do something. For example, if it is time to prepare for bed, don't ask if he is ready to brush his teeth. Instead, tell him that it is time to brush his teeth.
  • Allow your child control over small things. A little control averts management problems.
  • Distract your child when he is set off by a trigger.
  • Set time limits for activities. This will help prevent boredom. Try a variety of activities with your child.
  • Move to a different environment. Going outside or to another room can lessen the severity of the tantrum.
  • Pick your battles. Some tantrums aren't worth fighting against.  Consider your child's age.

You can also neutralize a tantrum once it has started. Remain calm and don't argue with your child. Always think before you react. If you positively distract your child with an acceptable activity, there's a good chance you will keep your child calm. If your child is out of control and you are afraid he might hurt himself, hug your child and reassure them that everything will be OK.

If tantrums increase in frequency or intensity, consult your health care provider. A professional will determine if an underlying condition exists.

Tantrums are normal as your child develops. But take heart: Eventually the tantrum phase will pass as your child matures.

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