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Aug02

How to Manage Temper Tantrums and Outbursts

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Temper tantrums are a loss of emotional control when we are frustrated.There are several types of tantrums that we can differentiate between with our children:

  • The preventable and avoidable ones that we can improve by anticipating them. They mainly have to do with hunger, lack of sleep, or an interruption to the schedule or daily rhythm of a child.
  • The ones that are preventable but cannot be avoided, those that have to do with safety, health or the limits and rules of a household.
  • And finally, those that are impossible to manage and that simply happen out of the need for catharsis at certain times after bottling up daily tensions.

Manage Temper Tantrums
Photo: I. Alix
Some tricks to manage temper tantrums
  • Anticipate. As parents, we already know the risky moments throughout the day. Remember to always have your ”Super Mom” or ‘Super Dad” backpack with you with all the necessities: snacks, drinks, and toys. They will be especially useful on those days you find yourself away from home or straying from your daily routine.
  • Avoid breaking routines and schedules too much. Children have a much different rhythm than adults: they eat earlier and need quiet places to rest. As parents, it can be hard to keep schedules straight, but it works!
  • Help them adjust to space and time according to their age. Make a poster with colors and photos illustrating the activities planned for the day as a visual way for them to relax and situate themselves. Preventing tantrums can be helped by using proper language. For example, ”Remember that after your shower we have some time to play. If you shower faster, we will have more time to play.” By speaking this way, we put the focus on what happens after ‘the critical moment,’ which in this case is the shower.
  • Encourage their autonomy. Sometimes children get frustrated because they want to do things on their own, like getting dressed, setting the table, cleaning, or washing up. These are responsibilities that can teach them responsibility and make them feel useful. These activities can become a game for them if we organize the space in an adequate way. For example, we can put their clothes and shoes in the lower part of their closet so that they can choose what they would like to wear. The same in the bathroom by using materials like step stools or putting hygiene products at a reachable height for them. Additionally with utensils for setting the table, by placing everything necessary in the lower kitchen cabinets.
  • Impose limits in a positive way with appropriate communication strategies. It is useful to set a few rules that are as clear and concrete as possible to be applied immediately. They must be positively enforced and implemented for all family members, not just the children. “In this house, everyone is treated with love, we don’t interrupt and speak with respect, without insults or screaming.”
  • Allow for the release of adrenaline that has been built up by daily stresses. During these moments we can only accompany them during the tantrum, hugging them or preventing them from hurting themselves and afterward by talking to them about what happened.
  • ”The secret time.” Look for quality moments. When they see ”secret time” written on their poster (even if they don’t know how to read) they know that it’s the exclusive time with mom or dad where there are no cell phones or distractions. It is exclusively for cuddles and talking about positive things from the day. With the accumulation of these moments (they don’t have to be very long but they do have to be quality) they feel satisfied and stop insisting on trying to get your attention.
  • Control your own tantrums as a mother or father. There are moments that get to us where we need to take a deep breath and deal with our own frustration. Often it helps us to not feel guilty for not doing everything perfectly – we are parents and we are also learning.
  • Name their feelings. It is important to tell them how we feel with respect to a certain behavior and also to know how to listen or empathize with the feelings that your child is having at the time. “I feel angry when I see your bedroom disorganized and messy.” ”I understand that you are tired, you did a lot of things today, but I would like for you to help me.” ”I understand that you are angry, it is difficult to have…”
  • Validate their feelings. Avoid saying things like, ”but that’s nothing, it’s just childhood nonsense…”
  • Focus on the positive.
  • Avoid turning it into a battle. “Let’s see who wins.”

Here we’ll leave you with a previous blog entry, 9 Strategies for Helping Kids Deal With Frustration that will give you more tips about how to help reduce the number of outbursts and manage temper tantrums.

Bibliography:
  • Faber, Adele. 1997. How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk. Scribner Book Company.
  • Faber, Adele, and Elaine Mazlish. 2004. Liberated Parents, Liberated Children : Your Guide to a Happier Family. New York: Harper.
  • Gordon, Thomas. 1998. P.E.T., Parent Effectiveness Training : The Tested New Way to Raise Responsible Children. New York: Penguin Group.
  • Rosenberg, Marshall B. 2015. Nonviolent Communication : A Language of Life. Encinitas, Ca: Puddledancer Press.

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