tantrum 1When my son was 2 and 3-years-old, he would have tantrums that lasted up to 45 minutes. He would flail about, throw things and lash out at me. I tried a method called holding to comfort him during his tantrums, which involves holding your child tightly facing away from you so they can’t hit you. However, holding did not work with my son; it just seemed to make him angrier. I noticed that his tantrums seemed to occur about 4pm in the afternoon when he was hungry and tired. So I was able to reduce the number of tantrums he had by giving him food at this time and reading him a book or doing some other relaxing activity.

Tantrums are most common in children between the ages of 18-months-old and 4-years-old. Major tantrums can involve serious aggression, breath holding, head banging and destruction of objects (Potegal and Davidson, 2003).

Tantrums can be reduced through:

1) Humour e.g. ‘Abracadabra, let me magic up an ice cream for you.’

2) Diversion e.g. let’s read ‘Goldilocks and the three bears now’.

3) Avoiding difficult situations e.g taking your child to the supermarket when they are tired.

4) Ignoring minor bad behaviour so that discipline doesn’t become a power struggle.

5) Replacing ‘no’ with ‘later’ or an alternative option.

However, don’t give into your child’s demands once a tantrum has started as this can increase the frequency of them.  Ignoring tantrums seems to reduce the length of time a tantrum goes on.  Parents should try to stay close by and remain calm if their child is having a major tantrum. If the tantrum goes on for more than five minutes, tell your child it is time stop now and count to ten. If the tantrum still continues, talk to your child in a quiet calm voice to reassure them you are still there as many children can become scared by their own loss of control.

Some children are violent towards their parents when having a tantrum. If your child tries to hit you put them in a safe place/different room where they cannot cause too much destruction. You can then reassure and comfort your child after the tantrum (Leung and Fagan,1991).

My book  ‘Psychology for Parents: Birth to teens’ is on sale as an e-book on Amazon and Smashwords.com.

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