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Handling tantrums in children

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Temper tantrums. Photo/Raising Children Network

Tantrums can be normal. It is a natural aspect of a child’s growth system.

Tantrums are actually your child’s best-known means of getting your attention and getting his or her way, says Jayne Augoye, parenting blogger and founder Fabmumng, a lifestyle and parenting resource for mums in Nigeria, while empowering mums and ultimately enabling them to effectively juggle it all.

“I believe the best approach is preempting a tantrum or meltdown before it occurs in the first place. A parent can achieve this by observing the triggers and then nip it in the bud before it even occurs.

For instance, we all know that children will often get upset when they are having so much fun, say at a party, and then an adult suddenly interrupts and drags them home.

“As an adult, if a person interrupts your entertainment rudely, you would get pretty mad; how much more children who haven’t fully gotten a hang of handling emotions. So, warn your child, give a 30 minutes warning to the end of an event, remind at 10 minutes to the time of an end of the event and your child will most likely comply when you say it is time to go home. For a younger child, you can use numbers and count to 50, about three times and we have to go, this often works.”

Augoye stressed that a parent’s approach to parenting can increase a child’s tantrum. Tantrums or naughty behaviour like some people like to call it is predominant when permissive parenting is the order of the day. Because permissive parenting involves a lack of demands and expectations, children raised by parents with this style tend to grow up without a strong sense of self-discipline. We all know that the absence of the latter spells doom in a home and ultimately, in a child’s life.

While adding that tantrums should naturally decrease as a child grows older and communicates better with his or her parents, bear in mind that temper tantrums in children range from whining and crying to screaming, kicking, hitting, and breath- holding and, in some extreme cases, the child inflicts harm on his or her body and destroys anything in sight. Because toddlers can’t yet say what they want, feel, or need, a frustrating experience may cause a tantrum. This is why experts say that as language skills improve, tantrums tend to decrease.

“Between ages three to four, tantrums should naturally fade off. However, if by the time a child reaches age three, a pattern of trying to hurt oneself during a tantrum may be a sign of major depression and should always be evaluated.

At this age, child psychologists say tantrums that include behaviours such as scratching oneself till the skin bleeds, head banging, or biting oneself are red flags, no matter how long the episodes last or how often they occur. These episodes are always associated with a psychiatric diagnosis.”

Augoye noted that when a tantrum occurs, a parent’s patience level is stretched to the limit, the following tips can guide you in handling the situation:

• Stay calm (or pretend to). Take a moment for yourself if you need to breathe in and ignore onlookers (that is, if it occurs in public)

• Acknowledge your child’s difficult feelings and speak gently to him or her. Please don’t scream back, I know it is quite tempting to do so.

• Wait for the tantrum to wear out and only take charge or be assertive especially when it appears to be going out of hand.

• Be consistent and calm in your approach. By this I mean, your reaction must be firm and consistent for every single time a tantrum occurs. So, you shouldn’t be laughing the first time and scolding the next time. Choose your battles and wisely too.


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