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Temper Tantrums: A Normal Part of Growing Up

Why do children have tantrums?

Temper tantrums are a way for your child to let off steam when she is upset. Following are some of the reasons your child may have a temper tantrum:

  • Your child may not fully understand what you are saying or asking, and may get confused.
  • Your child may become upset when others cannot understand what she is saying.
  • Your child may not be able to express their feeling very well with words.
  • Your child may be hungry, tired, anxious, or uncomfortable.

What to do when tantrums occur

When your child has a temper tantrum, follow the suggestions listed below:

  1. Distract your child by calling his attention to something else
  2. Try to remain calm. If you shout or become angry, it is likely to make things worse. Remember, the more attention you give this behavior, the more likely it is to happen again.
  3. Minor displays of anger such as crying, screaming, or kicking can usually be ignored. Stand nearby or hold your child without talking until he calms down. If you cannot stay calm, leave the room.
  4. Some temper tantrums cannot be ignored. The following behaviors shouldn’t be ignored and are not acceptable:
    • Hitting or kicking parents or others
    • Throwing things in a dangerous way
    • Prolonged screaming or yelling

Using a cooling-off period or a “time-out” to remove your child from the source of his anger. Take your child away from the situation and give him some time alone to calm down and regain control. A good rule of thumb for a time-out is 1 minute of time for every year of your child’s age. If your child is old enough, talk about what happened and discuss other ways to deal with it next time. You should never punish your child temper tantrums, nor should you reward your child for stopping a tantrum. Rewards may teach your child that a temper tantrum will help get his way.

How to help prevent temper tantrums

As a parent, you will not be able to prevent all tantrums, but the following suggestions may help reduce the chances of a tantrum:

  • Encourage your child to use words to tell you how he is feeling.
  • Set reasonable limits and don’t expect your child to be perfect.
  • Keep a daily routine as much as possible.
  • Avoid situations that will frustrate your child.
  • Avoid long outings or visits.
  • Be prepared with healthy snacks when your child gets hungry.
  • Make sure your child is well rested.
  • Distract your child from activities likely to lead to a tantrum.
  • Be choosy about saying “no.”
  • Let your child choose whenever possible.
  • Set a good example. Avoid arguing or yelling in front of your child.

Information on this site is intended for Angel Kids Pediatrics patients only. Always consult your doctor before beginning, modifying, or discontinuing any treatment plan.

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