Taming temper tantrums
- Posted by:
- Michael Grose
Tantrums come in various guises and have various names including wobblies, tanties and hissy fits to name a few.
They can be loud with lots of shouting. They can be quite physical, with doors slammed and objects thrown. And they can be silent, which can be just as difficult to manage as the louder kinds. Kids of all ages throw them, but the frequency is a little higher in the toddler and teenage age groups.
So what are tantrums about?
There are two types of tantrums that kids throw. The first type is a frustration tantrum, when they can’t do or explain things adequately. Throwing this type of tantrum is a way of venting that most of us grow out of.
It may be valid for a four year old to throw his shoes in the air because he can’t tie up his laces, but it’s embarrassing when an adult tosses his work in the air when he misses a deadline! When kids throw a frustration tantrum adults need to reassure them, give them space or a hug until they have calmed down.
There is another type of tantrum that comes from a different space altogether: a control tantrum. These are the wobblies kids throw when things don’t go their way. When they want to demonstrate their disapproval or get what they want a tantrum magically appears. These tantrums are forms of emotional blackmail, which are very effective in helping kids get their own.
Control tantrums require an audience – the bigger the better, so supermarkets and other public places make great places where children can throw a ‘wobbly’. Children may throw a tantrum in their bedrooms, too, but they are always loud enough for parents to hear. They are often thrown just at a time when it’s hard to resist, such as when you are racing out to work in the morning, and you haven’t time to deal with them.
Tantrums can make kids feel powerful
Tantrums are also very energizing. Next time you are feeling lethargic try throwing yourself on the ground and throw a full-blown tantrum and you’ll feel the adrenaline pumping. So how can you respond to these control tantrums so that you they decrease rather than become more prevalent? Here are some ideas from my book Thriving!
1. If possible, get on top of tantrums before they begin.
As soon as you see the first sign of a ‘wobbly’, act quickly to prevent from escalating. Use distraction, be firm, but don’t let the tantrum take off.
2. When a tantrum begins, move away.
Don’t try and reason with a child in the middle of a tantrum. Go into another room or even outside. If the tantrum is in public, either move away (still close enough for supervision) or quietly remove him or her from the scene. Refuse to be around or even cooperate with a tantrum-thrower.
3. Be firm and refuse to be blackmailed by your children’s outbursts.
Giving in sends a message that tantrums work if children cry loud and long enough. If a child makes a mess or becomes destructive he or she can clean up the mess or make some type of restitution later. By remaining calm and refusing to give in to temper tantrums, you are sending a powerful message: ‘I will not be blackmailed by such behaviour. I shall respond positively to you when you calm down.’
Following a tantrum, talk about better ways that your child could act to get his or her needs met. Rehearse what they could do next time, even practising what they could say. This type of behaviour rehearsal can be very effective in teaching children more appropriate ways to get attention.
Provide a safe alternative for children who want to display their anger. Exercise, hitting a ball or even quiet relaxation can help dissipate anger if this is a problem. Talk about these safe alternatives with your child.
Tantrums work in terms of enabling kids to get their needs met, whether it’s avoiding something they don’t want to do or just changing their parents’ minds. Your unwillingness to give into this form of emotional blackmail will have a large impact on the number and intensity of tantrums that your kids display.
For more ideas to manage tantrums effectively visit www.parentingideas.com.au
- anger, angry, behaviour, kids, poor, tantrums, temper