“Characteristics of Temper Tantrums” Robert G Harrington, Ph.D of University of Kansas All young children from time to time will whine, complain, resist, cling, argue, hit, shout, run, and defy their teachers and parents. Temper tantrums, although normal, can become upsetting to teachers and parents because they are embarrassing, challenging, and difficult to manage. On the other hand, temper tantrums can become special problems when they occur with greater frequency, intensity, and duration than is typical for the age of the child. At about age 1½ some children will start throwing temper tantrums. These bouts of temper tantrums can last until approximately age 4. Some call this stage the terrible twos and others call it first adolescence because the struggle for independence is similar to what is seen during adolescence. Regardless of what the stage is called, there is a normal developmental course for temper tantrums. 1½ through 2 years old Children during this stage will test the limits. They want to see how far they can go before a parent stops their behavior. They want independence and self-control to explore their environment. When children cannot reach a goal, they show frustration by crying, arguing, yelling, or hitting. Many times children stop the temper tantrum only when they get what is desired which reinforces this behavior. Three-year-olds By age 3 many children are less impulsive and can use language to express their needs. Tantrums at this age are often less frequent and less severe. Nevertheless, some preschoolers have learned that a temper tantrum is a good way to get what they want. Four-year-olds Most children have the necessary motor and physical skills to meet many of their own needs without relying so much on an adult. At this age, children also have better language that allows them to express their anger and to problem-solve and compromise. However, they can still have temper tantrums when faced with challenges. Prevention of Temper Tantrums: It is much easier to prevent temper tantrums than it is to manage them once they have erupted. Here are some tips for preventing temper tantrums and some things you can say: Reward children for positive attention rather than negative attention. Catch the during something good and give verbal praise. Establish consistent routines to add structure. Change environments. Suggest going for a walk. Choose your battles. Teach children how to make a request without a temper tantrum and then honor the request. Say, Try asking for that toy nicely and Ill get it for you. Make sure that children are well rested and fed in situations when tantrums tend to occur. Avoid boredom. Take a break and do something fun. Distract children by redirection to another activity when they tantrum over something they should not do or cannot have. Give choices when appropriate. Choices help cut down on the power struggle. Give children a 5 minute warning before you reach the end of an activity so that they can get prepared for the transition. Explain what will happen when they are visiting new places or meeting new people. Use humor when appropriate. Interventions: Remain calm and do not argue with the child. Try to intervene before the child is out of control. Get down at the childs eye level and say, You are starting to get revved up, slow down. You can positively distract the child by getting the child focused on something else that is an acceptable activity. You can place the child in time away. Time away is a quiet place where the child goes to calm down, think about what he or she needs to do, and, with your help, make a plan to change the behavior. You can ignore the tantrum if it is being thrown to get your attention. Once the child calms down, give the attention that is desired. Hold the child who is out of control and is going to hurt himself or herself or someone else. Let the child know that you will let him or her go as soon as they have calmed down. Reassure that you love them and validate their feelings. Talk with the child after the child has calmed down. When the child stops crying, talk about the frustration the child has experienced. Try to help solve the problem if possible. Teach the child new skills to help avoid temper tantrums. Such as how to identify their feelings, how to ask for what they need, and how to calm themselves (ie. Deep breathing, counting to 10, etc). Post-Tantrum Management: Never give in to a tantrum. That response will only increase the number and frequency of the tantrums. Explain to the child that there are better ways to get what he or she wants. Do not reward the child after a tantrum for calming down. Validate their feelings and that it is okay to be angry. Explain that anger is a feeling that we all have and teach ways to express it in a healthy way.
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