Any adult who has ever experienced a child’s temper tantrum understands that “there is nothing quite like dealing with a kicking, screaming child. It can bring out the worst in all of us and it is always difficult to handle.” (1) A tantrum is generally very loud, cringe-inducing, frustrating, and depending upon where it happens, mortifying.
Toddlers throw tantrums for a variety of reasons, and few of them make sense to an adult. It may just be that the toddler feels frustrated and has no other way to express it.
But by the time children reach pre-school age, around four and five years old, they “are less likely to throw tantrums. They have developed more coping skills and are able to communicate better.” (2) Nevertheless, when he is tired, or frustrated, or things just are not going his way, a five-year-old “may begin to behave more like a 2-year-old. Some children learn at this age that tantrums can be used to get something they want. If parents give in to demands, tantrums may begin to occur with greater frequency.” (3)
There are three rules of parenting to keep in mind when dealing with bad behavior like temper tantrums.
First, reward good behavior: “[D]o it quickly and often. A child’s good behavior will be positively reinforced and therefore strengthened when they receive a reward from a caregiver. Social rewards are the most effective rewards and include smiles, hugs, kisses, words or praise, eye contact and attention.” (4)
Second, do not reward bad behavior, accidentally. It is an easy rule to break, and it happens very frequently. But if a parent pays attention to the child during a temper tantrum, “even if this attention is to yell at their child, it will act to reward the bad behavior…..” (5)
And lastly, the parent should use a mild form of punishment to dissuade tantrums. “Examples of mild punishment include time-out, scolding, natural consequences and logical consequences.”(6) Time-out is particularly effective. It means, literally a period of time spent away from toys, games, and anything else the child enjoys. .
For more information, please visit:
- Oesterreich, Lisa. Lee, Katherine. “Temper Tantrums.” Understanding Children. 2003. Retr. 27 Feb. 2012 <http://www.extension.iastate.edu/Publications/PM1529J.pdf>
- Tiszda, Sharon M.,MD. “Common Behavioral Problems in Toddlers and Young Children.” 2002. Retr. 27 Feb. 2012 <http://www.hawaii.edu/medicine/pediatrics/pedtext/s01c07.html>