Rebecca White, Gioe, Cheri M., Merrill, Thomas A.
Temper tantrums aren’t uncommon in young children. The key for adults is learning how to deal with them. Part of that process is realizing why children may have tantrums, learning signals of when a tantrum may be coming on and equipping yourself to effectively deal with them. Tantrums usually are an outlet for children who do not have the social, emotional or cognitive skills to express fears, anger or frustration. Typically, tantrums occur when children are tired, hungry, uncomfortable, ill, frustrated or feel stifled or threatened.
One of the most common reasons children display this type behavior comes when they are not provided with structure such as rules or a regular routine. To prevent tantrums, child-care providers and parents must watch for and act upon signals a child gives before having a tantrum. For example, it is important that activities involving a child be planned around the child’s normal routine. It’s also important to ensure that children are well rested, are not hungry and know what is expected of them when they will be in any sort of unfamiliar situation.
Because all children are different, the reasons for tantrums may vary. It is critical for care providers and parents to always remain calm no matter what the reason for a tantrum. When tantrums occur in public, it is important to seek a quiet, private place to help the child work through his or her frustration.
At times, some children may become violent during a tantrum. It is important that adults ensure that children are as safe as possible. If a child begins to kick or bang his or her head, ensure there aren’t objects nearby that might hurt the child.
Also consider using "I messages" to identify what the child is thinking or feeling. A typical ‘I statement’ for this type of situation might be for you to say to a child, "I feel embarrassed when you have a tantrum in public, because everyone else doesn’t understand that you are just tired and hungry. I would like it if you would talk to me about what’s wrong before you get to the point of kicking and screaming and yelling. Once you have done this, try to redirect the child’s attention to something else. If that doesn’t work, the child may need to be left alone for a little while until he or she can calm down.
Keep in mind that it’s important to talk children through their feelings. It also is important that care providers or parents offer comfort once a tantrum is over and that they discuss other options for how a child’s frustration could have been handled.
The LSU AgCenter’s "Be Child Care Aware!" educational program is designed to educate parents and child-care providers about quality child care. It was funded, in part, through a contract with the Louisiana Department of Social Services’ Office of Family Support.