Dr. Fred Piaser
Longevity and Diet
Parent and Child
Temper tantrums are quite common and a normal part of growing up. This behavior
occurs equally among boys and girls. It occurs between the ages of one and four
years but is most common in two and three year old children. When your baby was
an infant, crying was the only way to express discomfort or get attention. As
he got older, he was able to point to what he wanted. He then learned to speak and
thus express his thoughts. This gave him more control over his environment. When
your child started to walk, he was able to explore a whole new universe. Through
ambulation and vocalization your child satisfies his strong drive to master the
world around him. He desires to control his environment but becomes disappointed
when he confronts his limitations.
The toddler and preschooler still has immature coordination. This and the
limits set by the family rules can often trigger emotional outbursts. Tantrums are
expressions of your child's frustration. It occurs when he is not able to accomplish
a task or when he has to follow a rule. They occur when emotions exceed the child's
ability to control them. It is hard for him to understand why he can't accomplish
tasks beyond his perceptual and motor coordination abilities. Your child also becomes
frustrated by the limits you set. You tell your child when to go to bed and what
to eat. You tell him what to wear and where to go. All these rules can be
overpowering even for the most resilient child. These restraints, your
child's limited ability and strong desire for control will give you some insight
on how your child feels. Your child will eventually learn to handle these
frustrations. You can help with this learning process.
What can you as a parent do to reduce the frequency of temper tantrums?
First, be as firm and as consistent as you can. It is easier for your child to
follow the ground rules if he knows them. Safety-proof your home. Keep valuables
and breakables out of the sight and reach of your child. This will minimize the
need for you to say "No" and "Don't." The less control you have to exercise over
your child the more freedom your child will feel he has. You can also present
your child with choices. Letting him choose which vegetable to eat or which story
to hear before bed lets your child make the decision. Giving him this authority
gives him more control of his life.
Tantrums begin when frustrations exceed control. When frustrations begins
to mount, redirect your child to another activity. This is successful if you
interact before the tantrum has started. You should leave your child alone if
he is already having a temper tantrum. Keep her in sight to prevent her from
harming herself but let her get it out of her system. You can tell the older child
to go to her room. It is better to send your child to her room until she regains
control. Don't send her to her room for a fixed time because this has the
implication of punishment. Avoid using the term "bad" if your child is having
a temper tantrum. Use words like "out of control" to describe his behavior. Praise
your child for being able to get back in control once the tantrum is over.
Your child should not use the tantrum as a substitute for his original behavior.
You or your child should complete the original task that first caused the tantrum.
As your child improves his verbal skills, he is able to channel his emotions
into more acceptable forms of expression. As he gets older he is able to
separate his thoughts from his actions and substitute words for deeds. With your help temper
tantrums will be an emotional experience over which your child will soon have
control. The following are books for further reading on tantrums and other
Copyright © 2010 Westbury Pediatrics