The Right Ways to Deal with Children’s Tantrums

Dealing with children’s tantrums is an inevitable part of every parent’s life. It’s a true test of patience having to pacify a child who screams and cries his lungs out and refuses to listen to reason. There are lots of ways to deal with toddler tantrums, but most parents today prefer to take the easy route – giving the kid a smartphone or tablet to distract him.

Obviously, the practice works. Children often magically shut up when they are handed shiny gadgets to keep them occupied. It’s an easy fix for a parent who doesn’t know how to handle kid’s tantrums and just wants to have some peace and quiet while watching over their children. But is it really such a good idea to pacify kids’ tantrums with gadgets?

Gadget Usage

Don’t make a habit of pacifying tempers with gadgets.
Photo by Honza Soukup via Flickr, Creative Commons

Is Using Gadgets Okay?

According to a research from Boston University School of Medicine, using a smartphone or iPad to pacify a toddler may impede his ability to learn self-regulation. The researchers stated that society’s understanding of the impact of mobile devices on the pre-school brain has been outpaced by how much children are already using them. They warn against the use of tablets or smartphones in diverting a child’s attention because of the negative effects in his “social-emotional” development.

This is certainly a wake-up call to parents who use gadgets to keep the children quiet during mealtimes at home or when dining in public. Dr. Gary Small, director of the Longevity Center at the University of California, Los Angeles, and author of “iBrain: Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind,” stated that “If people spend too much time with one technology, and less time interacting with people like parents at the dinner table, that could hinder the development of certain communications skills.”

Why Kids Resort to Tantrums

Why Kids Resort to Tantrums

Kids resort to tantrums when they’re frustrated at something.
Photo by Mindaugas Danys via Flickr, Creative Commons

We understand why parents are willing to do just about anything to control the kids’ tantrums. A kid crying and screaming while you’re at the supermarket or having lunch at a public place can take its toll on your self-control. You have to deal with the embarrassment of having people looking at you and thinking that you’re a bad parent for not being able to control your child.

It’s a difficult situation to be in, and you’re not alone. Keep in mind that there are things you can do to keep your child’s tantrums in check but first, you have to get to the bottom of this and find out why your child is acting that way in the first place.

A child throws a tantrum when he wants to express his frustration at something. Since most kids at a young age still can’t find the right words to express his thoughts and feelings, their frustration turns to anger and anger leads to tantrums. When your kid is trying to tell you something and you’re unable to understand him, chances are he’ll resort to tantrums to get what he wants. Tantrums can get even worse when your kid is tired, hungry, or thirsty.

If you’re wondering if your kid is doing it on purpose, then you’re in for a pleasant surprise. Young kids don’t actually intend to anger, embarrass, or frustrate their parents. It’s simply their only way to make you understand something they can’t put into words. According to Claire B. Kopp, professor of applied developmental psychology at California’s Claremont Graduate University, the problem is mostly attributed to uneven language skills. She says, “Toddlers are beginning to understand a lot more of the words they hear, yet their ability to produce language is so limited.”

It’s a different case with older children, though. Older kids who still resort to tantrums mostly have parents who easily gave in to their demands when they were younger. Parents who give their children whatever they want to make them shut up will most likely produce older kids who will use tantrums for manipulation.

What to Do When Your Kid is Throwing a Fit

What to Do

Increased playground time can do wonders for your kid’s temperament.
Photo by vastateparksstaff via Flickr, Creative Commons

Instead of reaching for your iPad to give to your kid when he’s in that mood, why not try other ways to tame his tantrums? There are easy solutions for toddler tantrums that can effectively restore the peace between parent and child and wean him off his dependency on gadgets.

  • Try to ignore him

No amount of reasoning will work with your kid when he’s in the middle of a tantrum. The reasoning part of his brain is not functioning at this moment. Alan Kazdin, PhD, author of “The Kazdin Method for Parenting the Defiant Child,” says that “Once you’re in a situation where someone’s drowning, you can’t teach them to swim – and it’s the same with tantrums. There’s nothing to do in the moment that will make things better. In fact, almost anything you try will make it worse. Once he chills out, then you can talk.”

  • Give him space

Sometimes all a person needs is some space, and this applies to children as well. Maybe you just need to let him get all the anger and frustration out. Giving him some much-needed space will allow him to vent out his negative emotions and regain his self-control. Just make sure that there’s no object near him that he can reach for and harm himself with.

  • Create a diversion

Diversion is the whole idea behind giving the kid a gadget to keep him quiet but it’s possible to create distraction without having to give your phone or tablet. If your kid’s throwing a fit because you refuse to buy him one of those super sweet frosted cereals, tell him that you need to grab some ice cream and he can help pick out the flavor. If you’re in the sea foods section, you can steer him towards the lobster tank and fascinate him with the crawling crustaceans. Lucky for you, children have short attention spans and easy diversions such as these can help take his mind off the reason behind his tantrum.

Another great diversion to make for your kid is to take him to a happy place where he can be with other children. Tantrums can magically disappear when he’s busy playing catch or taking his turn with the slide or seesaw at the playground. Not only will this give him more physical activity, it’s also a great bonding time between you and your kid.

  • Give him a hug

If the leave-him-alone approach doesn’t work, try using the magic of touch to pacify him. Don’t give him a smothering hug lest you risk the chance of inflaming him even further. Just go for a big, firm hug, no words necessary. This gesture will make the kid feel safe and secure and maybe this is all he really needs.

  • Don’t shout at the kid

It’s hard to keep your cool when your child is behaving like the kid from hell, but engaging in a screaming match will not help matters. Talking in a calm and soothing voice asserts your authority in a non-threatening way and will give your kid the impression that his behavior is not affecting you in any way.

Exercising patience and making use of these techniques should be enough to control your kid’s temper. If his tantrums continue and intensify over time, you should consider seeking professional help. Frequent tantrums can be a sign of physical or psychological issues that a doctor should help you with. Vigilant monitoring of your child’s behavior will help you in deciding whether you should seek the doctor’s help or not.

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