Hell hath no fury like an angry child! Temper tantrums in kids are as unpredictable as they can be. A grocery run can result in as severe a meltdown as any big disappointment if it involves a child who didn’t get what he or she wanted. Temper tantrums, as unmanageable as they seem, are a very normal part of growing up. These emotional upheavals can happen at any time of the day, anywhere. And while ‘Shhhhh, quiet now!’ might not work, there are many ways to handle temper tantrums there and then.
What are temper tantrums?
Temper tantrums are intense, uncontrolled expressions of anger, frustration, or other negative emotions in children aged 1 to 4. They are a normal part of a child’s development and can be triggered by factors like fatigue, hunger, routine changes, frustration, or a desire for independence, says psychologist Dr Imran Noorani. He says that these tantrums may be an appeal from the little ones to be heard and understood by elders.
What are the causes of temper tantrums?
Be it fatigue, hunger, overstimulation, a routine change, no freedom, inability to communicate what they want – the list goes on! All of this, or even one of this can result in a tantrum.
“Children often become frustrated when they cannot do something they want, and they may 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 lack of autonomy. Communication challenges, sensory sensitivities, physical discomfort, limit-setting, seeking attention, and unfamiliar environments can also trigger tantrums,” adds Dr Noorani.
Also read: No means no! 7 times you need to say this to your child
When do kids learn to control their anger?
With time, as children develop emotionally, these temper tantrums tend to fade away, or at least the severity gets dialed down. “As children grow, they develop better emotional regulation skills and become more capable of handling them. The timeline for improving their ability to handle tantrums is from infancy to school age,” says Dr Noorani.
Once these tiny tots go to preschool, they are able to understand better, talk better and communicate. “Parental guidance and modelling of effective emotional regulation strategies are crucial for helping children manage their temper tantrums,” he adds.
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5 ways to manage temper tantrums in kids
Well, as impossible as it seems, there are ways to control temper tantrums in kids – whether the child demands toys or is a fussy eater! Here are five tried and tested ways parents can adopt to ensure that a temper tantrum minimises quickly.
1. Stay calm and patient
This may seem impossible, but it’s actually quite effective. “Children often throw tantrums to get a reaction, so staying calm can help de-escalate the situation. Take deep breaths, count to ten, or step out of the room briefly if needed to collect 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 particular environment? By identifying these triggers, you can proactively address them. For example, ensure your child has regular meals and naps, and avoid situations that you know may lead to tantrums.
3. Use positive reinforcement
“You got this!”, “great job”. These are affirmations that work wonders with kids. Reinforce the good behaviour with positive attention and praise. But how does this fit into a temper tantrum? Dr Noorani says that when your child behaves well or calms down after a tantrum, offer praise and affection. This helps teach them that positive behaviour is more likely to get attention than tantrums.
4. Establish clear boundaries and expectations
Set your limits! Set clear and consistent rules for your child’s behaviour, but make sure these are in tandem with their age. Be clear, use simple language, but also offer choices when possible. This gives them a sense of control.
5. Redirect and distract
When you sense a tantrum brewing, try to redirect your child’s attention to something else. Offer them a different toy, activity, or engage them in conversation about something they enjoy. Distraction can be an effective tool for defusing tantrums before they escalate, says Dr Noorani.