Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Dealing with Temper Tantrums

temper tantrum Image courtesy of
As young children learn to regulate their emotions, they can sometimes struggle with basic day-to-day routines. My two-year-old has shown this as she has struggled with things as basic as bathing, getting in her carseat, and changing into a diaper before bedtime. The tantrums she throws turn our world upside down for a few moments as we try to figure out how to deal with these fits in the best way possible. My husband and I have struggled to handle these situations without becoming very uptight and angry ourselves. The intensity of these tantrums becomes very wearing in a very big hurry. So how can parents best deal with tantrums? Dr. Robert G. Harrington from the University of Kansas offers this helpful advice:

  • Catch your children being good in situations where they sometimes throw tantrums. Praise them for their good behavior.

  • Offer your children choices so that they still feel a sense of control.

  • When you see a tantrum coming on, redirect your child to a new activity.

  • Make sure your children get the appropriate amount of sleep and make sure they are well-fed before entering situations that may pose problems (i.e. grocery shopping, play group, preschool).

  • Try to provide a fairly consistent structure and routine for your child.

  • Provide ample warnings for your children letting them know when transitions will be occuring (i.e. "Bedtime is in five minutes" or "We will be leaving right after lunch.")

  • Never give into a tantrum or reward or bribe your child with a treat for stopping. This will most likely increase the frequency because the child will learn that he/she can get what he/she wants.
As I have tried to figure out the source of my daughter's tantrums and tried to figure out ways to stop them from happening, I have noticed that they usually occur when my daughter is tired or hungry. It takes time to figure out what sparks your child's tantrums and what works for your child, but do not give up. Just last night, I solved an almost-tantrum by telling my daughter the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears as I put on her diaper. This offered the perfect amount of distraction and allowed me to accomplish what I needed to without her having a meltdown. Different things work for different children, but it never hurts to hear ideas from other parents. What have you found works best to prevent or intervene in your child's tantrums? For more ideas for tantrum prevention and intervention from Dr. Harrington, visit the website link above.



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