“A temper tantrum is when a child has an unplanned outburst of anger and frustration. Tantrums can be physical, verbal or both. Your child may act out, be disruptive and generally display unpleasant behaviors. Usually, they’re acting like this because they want or need something they can’t express with words.” (Cleveland Clinic)

Some kids have temper tantrums as toddlers but then outgrow them. Other children can still struggle to manage their frustrations beyond those years — and then there is a percentage of children who seldom seem to lose their cool.

If these tantrums are in your child’s repertoire of behaviors, you’re not alone. According to WebMD.com, they’re “exceedingly common” in children between the ages of 1 through 4. In fact, more than half of toddler tantrums occur at least once per week, sometimes more. As a parent, it’s important to stay calm and respond with patience and love in ways that help them to develop the skills they need to manage frustrations.

Strategies that WebMD experts do NOT recommend include simply giving in to young children (because then children learn that this is an effective technique) or spanking your child (which may only make the tantrum worse).

Preventive Measures

To help prevent temper tantrums, stick to routines, and make sure your child is well-rested. Being tired and hungry are the main sources of tantrums in many cases. Also, give your children some control over their lives (Would you prefer strawberry or grape jelly in your PB&J sandwich?) and pick your battles wisely. If a cartoon is your child’s clear favorite, it may make sense to allow them to watch it, even if that puts them 15 minutes over their daily allotted screen time.

If a tantrum seems in the making, see if you can distract your child, whether that’s through a walk, joke-telling session, or something else that your child appreciates.

Strategies to Manage Tantrums

According to KidsHealth.org, you can help your children to develop the skills needed to control their anger in ways that dovetail with their personalities. With some children, for example, you can effectively respond to a tantrum by reviewing household rules. You can acknowledge that the child is upset; remind them that yelling isn’t allowed; and then ask what is so upsetting. This can guide your child back to a sense of self-control.

Other times, you may need to put your child into a time-out to provide enough space to calm down. Then, it’s time to help your child express what is so frustrating “without whining, sulking, or yelling.” If your child is still showing strong emotion such as yelling or sulking, don’t engage with them. This will have your child learn that calmness is what gets your attention. If your child needs more time before being able to put feelings into words, then provide that time and space.

Once your child is able to try to express unsettling feelings, listen carefully and offer to help address the situation. Many times, though, just being listened to is enough.

Parents.com says that if a child is throwing a tantrum but not endangering anyone, it’s worth a try to ignore the behavior. That way, you won’t be reinforcing these undesirable behaviors. But aggressive tantrums include “raging, hitting, kicking, biting or throwing things,” and parents should remove them immediately from the area and take away a privilege or use time out.

Final Pieces of Advice

The Mayo Clinic, meanwhile, chimes in with this advice: praise good behavior. Watch for times when a young child behaves well and handles frustration appropriately. Provide extra attention to reinforce this behavior.

In most cases, tantrums tend to become less common when a child reaches the age of 3.5. That’s because your child has a lot more self-control. If temper tantrums seem to worsen or if a child is harming themselves or others, or uses other tactics such as holding their breath, then it makes sense to consult with a pediatrician.

Temper tantrums are a part of childhood development. Every child experiences them to some degree, so don’t feel like a bad parent because your child acts out. Watch your child’s behavior and treat each tantrum on a case-by-case basis when deciding the best way to handle it.

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