It happens in the supermarket, at the clinic, in church and at the in-laws' holiday dinner: your normally happy child, with seemingly little provocation, has a temper tantrum - crying, screaming, kicking, throwing himself on the floor.
It's important to remember that temper tantrums are common and expected behavior for young children. Some causes are very logical, although not always obvious when a child is kicking and screaming. Your child may be hungry, sick, overly tired or overstimulated by too much activity. Her routine may have been disturbed. Whatever the immediate situation, one of the major causes of temper tantrums is frustration. Perhaps her independence is being thwarted, or she's heard too many "don'ts" in too short a time. For some children, even pleasantly exciting situations can lead to a tension build-up which may trigger tantrums as easily as unpleasant situations.
When young children lose control, they need an adult to help them regain control of their behavior. Parents should first work toward preventing the child from hurting himself and others. Remember that each child is different; what works for one child may have no effect on another. Here, as in all aspects of child rearing, there is no magic formula.
There are, however, some guidelines.
No. Children must pass through this stage in order to learn how to handle their emotions in the future. However, an alert parent can sometimes anticipate a tantrum and head it off. If you know dinner will be late, offer your child a snack to tide her over. If your child has had a very stimulating afternoon, a bath before supper may relax her. If she has difficulty changing activities, give her a warning and mention the appealing aspect of what is ahead. For example, "Let's pick out a book to read" is more appealing than "Let's get ready for bed now."
Coping with temper tantrums may be the most challenging aspect of parenting at this stage of a child's development. Remember that it is a tough time for your child as well. By trying to understand the behavior and not overreacting, you can help your child through this unsettling phase with as little trauma as possible.