Temper tantrums. As normal as they are, they can become displeasing to teachers and parents because they are embarrassing, challenging and tough to manage.
Every teacher of young children and every new parent can anticipate some temper tantrums in children from one to four years. On average, temper tantrums are equally common in boys and girls. More than half of young children will have one or more per week.
All young children from time to time will whimper, whine, resist, cling, argue, hit, yell, run and disobey their teachers and parents. On the other hand, temper tantrums can become special problems when they occur with greater frequency, intensity and duration than is typical for the age of the child.
Toddlers generally understand more than they can express. They are also trying to master their world and when they are not able to complete a task, they turn to one of the only tools at their disposal for venting frustration — a tantrum.
An additional task toddlers are faced with is an increasing need for autonomy. Toddlers want a sense of independence and control over the environment — more than they may be capable of handling. This crafts the perfect condition for power struggles as a child thinks: “I can do it myself” or “I want it, give it to me.” When children realise that they cannot do nor have everything they want, the stage is set for tantrums.
Sometimes it will not be possible for you to escape from the public easily. Likewise, you may find it hard to escape if you are standing in a long check-out line at the supermarket with a cart full of groceries. Under such circumstances, all you can do is grit your teeth and hang on.
Ignore the screaming child. Ignore the glares and snide remarks of the people around you. Keep your cool. Anyway, a near-piercing child in a check-out line speeds it up; so your child is essentially doing everyone a favour. Once you are able to make your escape, chat to the child about their behaviour.
If the tantrums are increasing in frequency, intensity or duration, consult your child’s doctor. You should also consult a paediatrician if the child is self-injurious, hurtful to others, depressed, showing signs of low self-esteem, or is overly dependent on a parent or teacher for support.
Post-tantrum Management Tips
• Never, under any circumstances, give in to a tantrum. That will only increase its number and frequency.
• Explain to the child that there are better means to get what they want.
• Do not reward the child after a tantrum for calming down. Some children will learn that a temper tantrum is a good way to get a treat later.
• Never let the temper tantrum interfere with your otherwise positive relationship with the child.
• Teach the child that anger is a feeling that we all have and then teach them ways to express anger constructively, such as drawing a picture.