There are three types of tantrums, and parents need to treat
each type differently.
1. Fatigue, Hunger, Illness, or Hypersensitivity:
Some children get out of sorts and lose emotional control when
they are tired, hungry or sick. Some children react quite
strongly and negatively to scratchy clothing, lables, too tight
shoes, etc. And some children become emotionally upset over
transitions from one astivety to the next. For example: Saying
"Put down your toys. It's dinnertime. Come now," can cause a
tantrum to some kids.
Some children are simply more sensitive, persistent or
determined and lack the emotional control necessary to keep
themselves in check.
"These kids," write Martha and William Sears, MD in The
Discipline Book, "are more prone to blow their lid, and they are
less able to put the lid back on once it has been blown."
Tantrum-prone kids have trouble controlling their emotions,
which results in an inability to control their behavior. They
are literally overwhelmed and out of control and cannot help
themselves at this moment.
2. Testing or Manipulation: When parents speak
of tantrums this is the sort they are usually referring to. This
is angry defiance on the child's part for not getting what he
wants now. Having a loudangry emotional explosion ofer
non-negotiable limits that the parent has set is what's usually
known as a temper tantrum. The child may be trying to gain power
in the situation. The parent can identify this type of tantrum
because he or she will feel manipulated.
What to do
- The very first and most important thing for parents to
begin with is to know your child. Who is she? What makes her
tick? What sets her off? Does she fall apart if she misses
lunch or her nap or both? Does the seam on the inside of her
socks drive her crazy? Does she operate on the"Just Do It"
philosophy of life regardless of her personal competence? Does
she cream bloody murder is she's interrupted in an activety
she's concentrating on? Does she have any food sensitivities?
Does she absolutely refuse to listen to the word no?
- If it is a falling apart, loss-of-control tempermental
type tantrum, then as quickly as possible fix the problem.
Feed her. Get her to bed. Take the shirt with THAT TAG off
now. If he is sensitive to change, give him plenty of advance
warning: "Ryan, we are having dinner in 10 minutes. Please
begin to find a stopping place in your game."
- The child with frustration type of tantrum needs
understanding, holding and comforting. This child needs
another human being there who cares and wants to comfort him.
Holding this child (if he'll let you) can work wonders. He can
relax in the security of your arms and soothing words: "It's
really hard to tie shoes, isn't it? You really wanted to tie
those darn laces, didn't you? I know, I saw how frustrated you
were," in a calm, understanding tone of voice will help her
relax and regain control.
- And finally, the third type of tantrum --the testing
manipulative temper tantrum. The best thing to do in this
situation is to ignore it completely. Give it no attention
In The Difficult Child, Stanely Turecki, MD writes:
"Excessive attention, even if it is negative, is such a powerful
reward to the child that is actually reiforces the undesirable
Leave the room if necessary. Even a young child could feel,
"What's the point?" if her audience has left the room. Lock
yourself in your room -- not the child in his. You could say, as
you're leaving the room, "When you're calm, I'm ready to
listen." Be ready and open to accepting him when he's regained
self-control. Never hold it against him. Absolutely do not try
reasoning, lecturing, discussing, debating, arguing, forcing,
shaming, overpowering, or making fun of him. Don't deal with it
in public, retreat to a bathroom if possible, or leave if
necessary. With this type of tantrum, keep in mind that ignoring
it is the best policy.
And most of all, keep in mind that children must know--no
matter what--that they are loved, and will be loved forever. Our
role in parenting, as guides and nurturers of our children, must
never be forgotten, even in the midst of tempering a temper