In Times of Tantrums

Although this stage is more commonly called the “Terrible two’s,” temper tantrums can happen between the ages of 1½ – 4 years, even beyond that!

This is a phase of a child’s life when they are simply refusing to conform in some way to their daily routine. It may be a very worrying time for parents as their once complaint child now seems to “fly off the handle,” at any given moment. Your child’s physical needs are changing, and their increased language ability combined with the power of the “negative,” make temper tantrums a normal part of growing up. Isn’t it better to have a child that can assert itself, rather than a passive child?

When do tantrums occur?

Tantrums can and do occur anytime and any place. They can occur when your child is tired, over pressured or anxious. Anxious children tend to have more tantrums than others. Temperamental and irritable children also tend to suffer more. Tantrums can be triggered off when you interrupt a child, when they get frustrated or when something is taken away from them. It is their way of protecting themselves.

What can I do?

The less fuss the child gets when it has a tantrum the better. Although it is easy to tell parents not to loose their temper when you are in the middle of Town on a busy Saturday morning, all logic seems to go out of the window. Here are some tips:

  • Try not to loose your control because tantrums can be very frightening to
    your child, if you begin to lose control of the situation it can make the
    child even worse.Do not give in to your child, if you have told them “no,” then
    stick to it. You may feel guilty, mean, embarrassed, petty and even foolish
    but the first time you back down, your child has you right where they want
    you. Stick to this and your child will soon learn that there is no point
    having a tantrum to try to change your mind. These kinds of boundaries help
    your child through this turbulent time.
  • Do not argue with them or try to reason, mainly because when they are
    having a tantrum they do not listen to reason or understand you.
  • Ignore the tantrum. By starving it of attention you will encourage the
    child to regain control of themselves quicker. Make sure your child is in a
    safe place and occupy yourself with something else. Try not to look at them
    but sneak a crafty glimpse to make sure that they are safe, then leave them be.
  • Do not reward a tantrum in any way! Sweets, praise or even telling your
    friends the next day when your child can hear you are all forms of reward.
  • Holding your child is one way they can vent their anger in a verbal term.
    By holding your child by their arms or legs, tight but not tight enough to
    hurt them, you can help to keep control of the situation whilst ensuring
    your child can not injure themselves.

What if my child holds their breath?

Few children use breath holding as a weapon against you, but for those parents whose children do then it may be terrifying. Let me reassure you that if a child holds their breath for 20 seconds or so they will at most pass out, as soon as they do then automatic breathing will take over and the child’s recovery will be rapid.

A child who is doing this needs attention and should be given it, but only when they are in the normal course of things. Giving them praise for doing something good can only benefit the child, however once they begin to hold their breath, retract all of this attention. Make sure your child is safe and comfortable while they recover, then behave as if nothing is happening. In doing this your child’s breath holding instances are likely to become more frequent and dramatic, however over time, you will soon see that the attacks become less frequent and soon stop altogether.

What about me?

Parents may get frustrated, angry and impatient with their child and have the feeling that they need to be away from their child with time on their own. Perhaps arrange for a friend to take your child for ½ an hour or so, failing this put the child in a room by themselves where they can not come to any harm (check them periodically). Give yourself time to cool off and relax, remembering that your child is experimenting with their own feelings and independence. This is a stage that your child will pass through, some more painlessly than others.