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Junior Zap Throws a Tantrum

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Mom is washing the dishes. Junior Zap doesn't know what he wants, but something... Mom tries to please him and offers a cookie. Junior Zap just throws it. Mom tries giving him his favourite toy, but Junior refuses it. She asks him if he wants to colour a picture, but he just screams. Finally, Mom thinks this is enough. She is firm with Junior Zap - he is throwing a tantrum for no good reason. He's being demanding and is out of control. Mom gives him a "time-out" by walking away from him for a few minutes, saying that he can join her when he is ready. Junior Zap continues to scream, but when no one is there to listen to him, he starts to calm down. When he is ready, he goes to Mom, needing her to comfort him. Then he helps Mom in the kitchen by drying some dishes.

Most young children have temper tantrums at some point. There are three basic reasons: one, he is tired, sick or overwhelmed with feelings of helplessness and frustration, and these feelings can't be held in any longer; two, he's angry because you didn't give in to him and he wants to be independent and have his own way; and three, he's trying to get your attention because he feels left out, ignored or lonely.

If your child is having a tantrum to get her own way, try not to give in to her, because you're teaching your child that tantrums work. When you're in a public place, you may occasionally have to give her what she wants. It depends what it is and how out of control the child is. When you're in public, you have to consider others - you and your child may have to leave the place.

Sometimes young children will throw temper tantrums just to have their own way. If it works, they start to feel they're in control. As a parent, you have to correct this situation.

It's very important for you to stay calm and in control during your child's tantrum - losing your own temper will only make things worse. Sometimes just walking away for a few minutes, making sure your child is safe, can be helpful.

Children respond much better to limits when they feel loved and noticed. Try giving directions in a positive way, such as "Please close the door quietly" instead of "Don't slam the door." Notice and praise good behaviour. This can build your child's self-esteem and reduce his need to battle with you all the time.

Whatever the reason for the tantrum, try to soothe, calm and talk to your child. Help her talk about how she felt and why she was angry.

Children are happiest when a parent exercises control and sets some limits, as part of a warm, caring relationship. But you do need to allow the child to feel he has control over some things in his life - it's all part of helping him become independent. For example, let him choose between two acceptable things (like shirts to wear), or which game you'll play together, or what household chore to help with.

Food for Thought:

  • How do you tell what kind of tantrum your child is having? How do you handle the different types?
  • How can you maintain control and still let your child feel he has some independence and control?

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