Temper tantrums are a feature of the toddler years, and indeed some would say they are a feature of adult life as well! Tantrums are outbursts of temper and/or aggression that are usually a response to not getting one's own way. Temper tantrums tend to peak in the two to three-year-old age group, hence the term 'the terrible twos'.
World leaders could learn a lot from observing parents negotiating with and finding solutions to their toddlers' tempers. The ability of most parents to resist the temptation to aggressively impose their will on their weaker, smaller, but fiercely angry and often irrational child shows huge measures of restraint. As any parent will admit they are not always as cool in dealing with these tempers as they would wish, but most parents do find solutions to this challenge without resorting to aggressive behaviour.
How you deal with tantrums will influence the way your child deals with life's stresses. Even though tantrums can be difficult and frustrating for you they do provide an opportunity to teach your child how to deal with frustrating situations and help him develop skills he will use for the rest of his life.
Let's take an extreme example of a toddler whose parents cannot cope with his tantrums and at the first sign of trouble look to appease the child by letting him do whatever it is he wants or give him what he is looking for. This child quickly learns that he has power over his parents and can bully them; he learns that he can and will get whatever he wants and he learns that he does not have to wait for anything. The problems really start for this child when he leaves the family environment to go to playschool, school, visit friends, etc. The lessons he has not learned will come to the fore at this stage. He won't know how to deal with someone who says 'no' to him, which will inevitably arise. He won't know what to do when he can't get whatever he wants. Finally he won't understand why the other children won't play with him — because he continually tries to impose his will on his playmates.
On the other hand, those parents who managed the child's tantrums in a consistent way and did not generally give in, will have taught their child a number of valuable lessons: how to cope with small amounts of stress, the need to respect others, the need to wait for what you want, and how to deal with not getting your own way, all very important lessons for life.
Top 10 tips for dealing
with a screaming toddler
Tantrums are normal for a small child and are a way of communicating his or her needs and wants.
Your child is not throwing the tantrum to 'get' at you — reacting with anger will not make you or your child feel any better.
Easier said than done, but try to see these episodes as opportunities to teach your child how to handle his anger — one of life's most important lessons.
Slapping a child in the middle of a tantrum, while relieving some of your tension, will not help him calm down and will probably prolong the tantrum.
Look at those times your child tends to have tantrums — is there anything you could do to avoid them?
If you know a tantrum is on the way, how about trying to distract your child — humour can be a great antidote to anger.
Try to remain calm during the tantrum. Make sure your child is safe and ignore the outburst as much as possible.
When the tantrum is over get on with what it was you were doing. A short comment is sufficient to signal the end of the tantrum.
Some children are exhausted after tantrums and need to rest. Give them an opportunity to do this.
Some children are scared by their outburst and may need reassurance that everything is all right after a tantrum. A hug and explanation that mammy/daddy loves him will reassure him that life as he knows it has not been damaged by his tantrum.
Don't be too harsh a critic on yourself. All parents lose the cool at times and deal with situations in ways they are unhappy with. Try to get a balance and keep working at finding the approach and solutions that suit you and your child best.
For more information visit www.RollerCoaster.ie, Ireland’s No 1 website for parents.