A Guide to Tantrums
Understanding, preventing and surviving them
By Claire McCarthy, M.D., Harvard Health Publications
I've been there, too — in public with a small child who is screaming her brains out, as if someone is pulling her fingernails out one by one. Of my five children, Natasha was the most dramatic:
Once I walked through Target pulling her along as she clung to my leg, letting the entire (huge) store know that she wanted the (very expensive) princess telephone. I know that feeling of anger, embarrassment, and desperation.
Why Tantrums Happen
Tantrums are a normal part of childhood. They are most common in 1- to 3-year-olds, but sometimes older children have them. They usually happen because a child:
Gets frustrated. Children ages one to three are learning to use language and their bodies. They become frustrated as they struggle to express themselves and when they can't do something they want to.
Gets upset. Disappointment and anger can be very difficult feelings to deal with, especially for a small child.
Is asserting his or her independence. This is the age when children begin to say no — sometimes purely for the sake of saying no.
Some Children Are More Prone to Tantrums
While every child throws a tantrum at some point in their lives, some children are definitely more prone to them than others. My eldest, Michaela, hardly ever threw one; I thought I was doing everything right as a parent — until my next child came along and threw plenty of tantrums.
Here are the most common reasons why some children are more prone to tantrums:
Some kids get frustrated more often than others, usually because they don't talk well enough to express themselves — or aren't yet physically able to do what they want to like running, climbing and reaching.
Temperaments vary. Some children are simply more emotional, more stubborn (that's Natasha!), or have more trouble handling disappointment than others. It was Michaela's thoroughly easygoing temperament that made tantrums rare for her, as opposed to my parenting of her.
Some kids need more attention. The attention they get for tantrums isn't really the kind they want, but it's attention.
Tantrums work. If you could get what you wanted by screaming, wouldn't you do it?
(Please check out Part 2)
Murphy Geer Toerner
- Murphy's Devotions
- Austin TX and Baton Rouge, LA, United States
- I enjoy helping people. I am an encourager and I can see the good in others. I want people to understand what it means to be an authentic Christian and not just a religious "nut." I believe if Christians lived and loved others as Jesus lived and loved others, we would experience more of heaven on earth than hell on earth. These thoughts and writings are intended to encourage you to be who God originally designed you to be. They are also intended to challenge you and make you think. Also, I want you to know that I'm praying for you every day. Blessings, Murphy Blessings to you, Murphy