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Temper Tantrums In Children

Alternate Names

  • tantrums

Definition

Temper tantrums are fits of anger that are usually caused by frustration. When a child has a tantrum, he or she loses control of feelings and talks and acts in a negative way. Temper tantrums consist of out-of-control behavior, including:
  • crying
  • yelling
  • kicking
  • hitting
  • throwing
  • What is the information for this topic?

    Temper tantrums are very common in children between the ages of 1 and 4 years. By the time a child is 4 years old, he or she should be having fewer tantrums.
    Tantrums occur most often in toddlers because during this time children are going through several very important stages. These include:
    • learning to manage their environment
    • becoming independent
    • developing language skills
    Tantrums are mainly a physical expression of a child's bad mood. Toddlers have more tantrums than older children because they have yet to learn how to control their moods. The limited language skills of the young child add to his or her frustration.
    Tantrums that occur beyond this age range, especially if they are frequent, severe, and associated with aggressive behavior, are a sign of a more serious behavioral problem that may continue in some form into adolescence and adulthood. Children older than 4 who have such tantrums should be evaluated by a professional.
    Parents and others need to understand that temper tantrums are a normal part of early child development. Toddlers who have tantrums are not "bad." They are just trying in their own, limited way to sort out the rules of their social environment. Temper tantrums in children between the ages of 1 and 4 are normal.
    Temper tantrums in children between the ages of 1 and 4 are normal. Tantrums that go beyond this age, especially if they are frequent, severe, and associated with aggressive behavior, are a sign of a larger behavioral problem. These children are at risk for having more serious behavioral problems later in life. Children older than 4 who have such tantrums should be evaluated by a professional.
    Some things that parents and other caregivers can do to deal with a child's temper tantrums include:
    • making sure the child is well rested. Toddlers will be in a better mood and have fewer tantrums if they get plenty of sleep.
    • setting reasonable limits on what a child can and cannot do. Parents should choose which situations call for limits and which can be overlooked. It should be clear to the child what these limits are.
    • making sure the child is not overly frustrated. Over the long term this may mean helping the child develop her language skills. Or it may involve something simple, such as having a cupboard in the kitchen full of old pots and pans that a toddler can safely play in and be redirected to if he or she gets into areas of the kitchen that are off limits.
    • letting the child know the consequences of his inappropriate behavior. This may mean warning the child that if the behavior continues, he will be put in a time out until he has regained control. Afterward, the parent should compliment the child for having calmed down. Then they should talk about the situation.
    • reinforcing a child's good behavior. Parents should try to catch their children doing something good and compliment them several times a day. An ideal ratio of compliments, if it can be achieved, is about 5 to 1.
    • finding alternatives to physical punishment to be used whenever feasible. A parent should never hit or slap a child in anger.
    • avoiding yelling and angry outbursts. This is a sign that the parent has lost control and is now at the same emotional level as the child. If a parent is becoming angry and losing control, it is appropriate for both the parent and the child to go into a time out. This can give the parent time to regain composure. Again, they should talk about the situation afterward.
    Many community organizations, such as schools or churches, offer courses to help parents deal with their children's tantrums and misbehavior.

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