Hell hath no fury like an angry child! Temper tantrums in children are as unpredictable as they can be. A grocery run can result in as serious a meltdown as a major disappointment when it comes to a child not getting what he or she wants. Tempers, no matter how uncontrollable they may seem, are a completely normal part of growing up. These emotional upheavals can happen at any time of the day, anywhere. And while ‘Shhhhh, quiet now!’ may not work, but there are many ways to deal with occasional tantrums.
What are tantrums?
Tempers are intense, uncontrolled expressions of anger, frustration or other negative emotions in children aged 1 to 4 years. They are a normal part of a child’s development and can be caused by factors such as fatigue, hunger, changes in routine, frustration or a desire for independence, says psychologist Dr Imran Noorani. He says these tantrums can be a call from the little ones to be heard and understood by the elders.
What are the causes of tantrums?
Whether it’s tiredness, hunger, overstimulation, a change in routine, no freedom, inability to communicate what they want – the list goes on! All or even one of these can lead to a tantrum.
“Children often become frustrated when they can’t do something they want, and they can become more irritable when they are not allowed to do things on their own. Overstimulation can be caused by too much sensory input, changes in routine, or a lack of autonomy. Communication issues, sensory sensitivities, physical discomfort, setting boundaries, seeking attention and unfamiliar surroundings can also trigger tantrums,” adds Dr Noorani.
Also read: No means no! You should say this to your child 7 times
When do children learn to control their anger?
As children develop emotionally, these tantrums tend to subside over time, or at least their severity is reduced. “As children grow, they develop better emotional regulation skills and become better able to cope. The timeline for improving their ability to handle tantrums is from childhood to school age,” says Dr Noorani.
Once these little ones start kindergarten, they can understand, talk and communicate better. “Parental guidance and modeling effective emotional regulation strategies are critical to helping children manage their tantrums,” he adds.
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5 ways to control tantrums in children
As impossible as it may seem, there are ways to control tantrums in children – whether the child needs toys or is a picky eater! Here are five proven ways parents can use to ensure a tantrum is minimized quickly.
1. Stay calm and patient
This may seem impossible, but it is actually quite effective. “Children often throw tantrums to provoke a reaction, so staying calm can help de-escalate the situation. Take a deep breath, count to ten or, if necessary, leave the room to calm yourself,” says Dr. Noorani.
2. Learn to anticipate triggers
Prevention is always better than cure, especially in this case! Pay attention to what tends to trigger tantrums in your child. Is it hunger, tiredness, frustration or a certain environment? By identifying these triggers you can proactively address them. For example, make sure your child eats and naps regularly, and avoid situations that you know can lead to tantrums.
3. Use positive reinforcement
“You did this!”, “great job”. These are affirmations that work wonders for children. Reinforce good behavior with positive attention and praise. But how does this fit into a tantrum? Dr. Noorani says that when your child behaves well or calms down after a tantrum, you should offer praise and affection. This helps them learn that positive behavior is more likely to receive attention than tantrums.
4. Set clear boundaries and expectations
Set your limits! Set clear and consistent rules for your child’s behavior, but make sure they are age-appropriate. Be clear, use simple language, but also offer choices where possible. This gives them a sense of control.
5. Redirect and distract
When you feel a tantrum coming on, try to direct your child’s attention elsewhere. Offer them a different toy or activity, or engage them in a conversation about something they enjoy. Distraction can be an effective tool to defuse tantrums before they escalate, says Dr. Noorani.