Temper tantrums are emotional outbursts that children display mostly due to unmet demands or desires. They are very common in children in their growing years, wherein they are trying to cope with emotions and are not yet very skillful in doing so. Their default reaction in a scenario when their needs are not met – throwing a fit.
It is often their anger and frustration from not getting what they want that result into temper tantrums and disrespectful behaviour towards others.
As a parent how do you handle it?
The most common way is the timeout exercise where children are made to sit alone and are expected to become calm after some time and co-operate with parents. It works for some children but may not work for every child. Parents need to understand that every child is unique and while it is good to try timeouts but it may simply be ineffective in some cases.So now, what other tricks can you have up your sleeve to deal with tantrums?
Children learn from their parents and if you are in the middle of a temper tantrum, do not get angry. It is easier said than done and it actually can make you angry when your child is not on his/her best behaviour. By your actions, show them how to manage your anger. Respond in a very calm and collected way. Do not react angrily when your child behaves unacceptably.
You need to explain to the children the different feelings we experience as human beings. It is difficult given their yet developing vocabulary and understanding, that said, we should teach them about different feelings. Help them label different feelings like anger, sadness, frustration, happiness, etc. Also, make them understand that we will experience these feelings, however, misbehaving is not at all acceptable. Encourage them to talk to you about their feelings, why are they feeling in a particular way and how to overcome it. They will eventually learn to embrace their feelings and share them with you.
You also, as a parent, be firm (and not aggressive) in explaining to them about what is acceptable and what actions are disrespectful and unacceptable in any situation. As mentioned earlier, try and make them understand that there will be times when they may be sad or angry at someone, but hitting the other person is not done and uncalled for. This will help them exert control over their behaviour over some time.
One of the major reasons, children throw tantrums is to grab attention. In today’s world where more often than not, both parents are working and are not able to give enough time to children. As a result, children crave for their attention and love and when they feel they are not getting it, out comes the tantrum tactics. This helps them seek attention instantly, based on their previous experience. So, spend more time with your child and make the best use of the limited time you might have with him/her. Develop that special bond with them which makes them feel loved and appreciated. If on weekdays, you do not get much time, make sure most of your weekends are spent with your child so that he/she does not have to demand your attention by throwing tantrums. This will create an emotional connect between you and your child and instill the feelings of calmness and contentment in your children.
You have tried everything and nothing seems to have worked, then seek professional help. Go to a counselor and help your child. I know, your fear is what others will think or my child is not mentally ill and so I don’t need the help of a counselor. This notion is completely wrong. Counselors are there to help your children and are professionally trained to handle their issues. We need to understand that this is very similar to the fact that when you have cough and cold and self-medication doesn’t work you seek the guidance of your family physician to set things right. It is not only when you have a heart attack or cancer that you will go to a doctor. Do not hesitate taking professional help especially if the child’s behaviour issues are beyond control and are getting worse with each passing moment.
Lastly, understand that all children throw tantrums. The degree would vary but all children do it. It’s their coping mechanism to deal with the changes happening in their surroundings. It is not a statement on your parenting skills nor the behaviour of the child. You need to stay focussed on how to deal with it. We will make some mistakes during the process.
The most important thing is to learn from those mistakes and give all the love and affection to your child by understanding their mindset and trying your best to overcome it as a family.