Parent’s Guide to Managing Childhood Tantrums

We see children as little people, who are going to cause chaos, have to be disciplined, and eventually learn to behave. What we fail to see is that children are functioning at best, within their capacity.

Tantrums are a way of expression for young children, but not when they become disruptive or start affecting the well-being of the child. In extreme cases, children may throw things and hurt themselves or others.
We see children in stores, crying or shouting because they want a toy, and their parents refuse, or if they want attention and their parents are busy.
In these two simple examples, we can see the difference in intent but to an outsider, it would look the same. When a child throws a tantrum, it is not necessarily a conscious decision.
As shown in many studies, being aggressive or upset, and showing those signs physically in the form of throwing things, hitting others, or screaming often occur as a result of poor emotional management.

What we can do as parents are to understand and manage tantrums:
It is going to be a hit trial type of learning for the parent as well as the child, but eventually, they can form a better routine to address emotional expression. It will be harder with young children, but setting up these routines can help their emotional development. At Udgam Clinic, during parenting skills training, we advise parents to nurture their inner child and to understand the limitations behind a child’s logical reasoning and self-expression.

1) What is the intent?

To understand the intent, we need to pinpoint the identifiers, to understand childhood needs. Regular communication with your child can help you understand why your child is showing certain behaviors, and what they are most sensitive or afraid of. This routine would allow the child to acknowledge that they can speak to their parents or that their parents will be willing to hear them, which is a huge confidence boost.

2) If the intent is need-based- when the child wants something or thinks they should have it. Parents can discuss the need and importance of that item. The first few times, it may not work but eventually, the routine would set in. E.g.: if Alex wants a pretty hat because her friends have it. You can discuss why she must have it. A young child may not be able to answer beyond that they want it, but as they grow older, they start giving reasons as well.

3) Intent is attention-based; the child requires parents’ attention, feels lonely or overwhelmed, or is jealous. Asking them about their feelings is a good way to develop a better introspective power.

4) Analyze what the child needs out of it: For simple reasons like wanting a new toy or some attention, the intent and result might be the same. But with more complex situations the results can be different. A child may ask parents for money, but reasons could range from being afraid of a bully at school, to wanting to look cool or to help someone.

5) Teach a better way of expression: The child may experience fear or anger, but instead of finding a way to tell it to the parent, they find it easier to scream and shout it out. It gives them peace after, but it sets in the guilt because screaming and shouting are looked down upon. Discussing their fear or its causes is a good way to reassure them that the parents are still supportive. Many therapists ask parents to assign colorful cards to emotions or pictures of animals to assign the intensity, it is a creative way for the child to express what they feel even with a limited vocabulary.

6) Understand a child’s disposition: If your child is naturally active, hobbies to release the extra energy can be useful, but if your child is not energetic, they might do better with a calm yet productive activity.
Teaching children a healthy way to express their emotions is difficult, especially when they are young. It is natural for them to shout and cry. But to avoid tantrums becoming a habit, parents need to start working on it now.

7) Show good behavior: By being better at expressing themselves, parents can encourage the child to imitate them. Checking in with the child periodically can also be another way for them to find a chance to vent. For slightly older children, immediate discussion after an event leads to fewer chances of being misunderstood, but it depends on how much time your child takes to be emotionally available to be present in this conversation.

8) Give them space to identify needs: Children may not have the same capacity as adults, but we cannot forget that they develop up to that point. Giving them proper space to express and validate their feelings can be helpful in the long run. If your child finds it very difficult to express emotions appropriately, you can reach out to a professional.

At Udgam Clinic, we advise parents to be open in their discussions with children, to understand the child’s need and their capacity for self-expression. children need parents’ support to develop better. Psychologists at our center, take care to protect children’s privacy and information from the public. We are trained to give therapy, do personality development, and enhance academic skills. To learn more about childhood tantrums and how to manage them, please stay tuned to our website.

Child Psychiatrist & Psychologist

 

Anuja Sathe

Counselling Psychologist

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