NDSU Extension - Sargent County


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Temper Tantrums

04.15.16 Temper TantrumsAs the saying goes, “April showers bring May flowers.” But that’s not all!  In the Klapperich family, April and May bring lots of birthdays, too – six in fact!  One of the upcoming birthdays is my grandson’s; he will turn two years old in May. 

Two-year olds often get a bad rap, probably because tantrums can be common at that age.  However, parents can do a lot to turn it around so that we think “the terrific twos” rather than “the terrible twos.”

A tantrum is a sudden, intense display of uncontrolled anger or frustration.  Tantrums can include things like screaming, kicking, and falling on the ground.  Tantrums tend to be most common in
children from ages 15 months to four years old. 

During the toddler years, because children are working hard to express themselves, while at the same time developing speech, coping, and problem-solving skills, a child’s day can be riddled with frustrations.  Sometimes that frustration escalates to a tantrum. Being hungry, tired, or over-excited can cause the frustration to build and increase the likelihood of tantrums.

For parents and other adults, the key to handling a child’s tantrum is four-fold:

  1. Keep calm.
  2. Be the example of what you want to see.
  3. Pause to engage your brain and come up with a solution or strategy.
  4. Reassure your child.

Keeping calm is paramount.  Since a child in a tantrum is out-of-control, the parent needs to remain calm enough for the both of them!

As a parent, the child’s time of tantrum is a perfect time to model the desired behavior by controlling your own emotions.  If the adult starts screaming or spanking when the child is screaming or hitting, things can go from bad to worse real fast. 

The idea of slowly counting to 10 is a great strategy for the parent.  This allows us time to engage our brain and think of healthy options for handling the tantrum.  Strategies that are most successful include distracting, removing, ignoring or holding the child.  Elements of the strategies for calming a crying baby (from last week’s column) will work with toddlers, too.

Once the child has calmed down, you can discuss the problem with your child.  Explain and teach your child acceptable ways to handle anger and frustration.  Encourage them to ask for help.  Express your confidence in them and encourage them to be patient in learning or mastering how to button buttons or any other new skill.  Encourage them to use self-calming strategies such as taking a break or taking a deep breath. 

Give them examples of phrases you’d like them to use.  For example, say “I’d like to hear you say, ‘I’m frustrated,’ when you are struggling with your buttons,” or “‘OK, mom, maybe next time’ when we don’t buy something you want.”

Lastly, nurture your child.  Tantrums can be scary for the child because they don’t understand why they are out of control.  Reassure them that you love them and will help them learn better ways to behave.

Reference:  Alicia Tieskoetter and Diana L. Baltimore, Department of Human 
Development and Family Studies, Iowa State University, “Hot Temper, Cool Parenting: How to Handle Temper Tantrums,”

Photo Source: https://pixabay.com/en/baby-child-girl-pouting-215867/  (Downloaded 4-19-16)


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