Why do children have temper tantrums?

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Haven’t we have all walked through a shopping mall and witnessed a todder in the throws of a temper tantrum, screaming and crying, with no awareness of others around or the possibility that he or she is embarrassing that parent? Just wailing.

The mother, usually,  in fact, tries to ignore the child and certainly wishes that she wasn’t there at that moment. It can be both frustrating and a little embarrassing. For some parents, when that child doesn’t stop, we witness them losing temper, yelling or even spanking the child. Spanking the child only makes things worse, but that parent has run out of patience and strategies.

Despite the scene a child may cause, he or she is communicating something to his or her mother/parent. That child is simply trying to express something to that parent that can’t be expressed in words yet. So, because this child is screaming about that toy in the store window, it could mean something entirely different.

Younger children, with little to no verbal language, use behavior as a means to communicate. They rely on behavior to communicate with their world because it works. Newborns and infants can only rely upon crying to state their needs, like hunger, sleepiness, and for some babies, dirty diapers are reasons they cry.

They use these behaviors, which challenge us greatly, and we try almost everything that we believe a child may need to satisfy it. We feed,[sometimes overfeed], burp babies to express air, etc…. As they grow older, expand their vocabulary and teach and model more positive ways to communicate with the world.

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Why a particular behavior?

Your child has no other way to express him or herself. That temper tantrum should not be taken personally. Your child, remember, is experiencing many things for the first time. Behaviors may be an expression of fear, a sort of system overload, when too many people are around. Over stimulation may also be expressed because a child is tired, but can’t do so in that environment comfortably. There are other factors behind a child’s behavior.

To really determine the purpose of your child’s behavior, start by looking around you, thinking about what happened before and after it begins. To prevent these behaviors from happening again, consider changing your routines, time of the day you engage in certain activities, and take note of certain places and social situations that may trigger this behavior.

Identify the purpose and you will be able to come up with other strategies to address it, other than yelling or giving up, giving in,. The least effective strategy is to hit your child. Even when culturally acceptable, hitting or spanking your child teaches but three things:

  1. How do do these same things more smartly
  2. The answers to conflict, mistakes, or trying new experiences or behaviors is violence
  3. If not careful, it teaches a child that he or she is bad and unlovable, not a good person

Try any and everything except spankings or beatings. You are the adult and it is already clear that you are in charge. Just because your parents spanked you, doesn’t mean that you should spank your child. Focus on strategies which encourage positive behaviors, for your child and yourself.

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Factors that affect behavior

Your child’s temperament, developmental age and stage, and some disability-related needs affect behavior.

  • Children have developmental stages. Developmental guidelines suggest the ages when children will typically develop certain physical, emotional, social and reasoning skills. Being familiar with these guidelines will help you pinpoint areas where your child may lag or excel. Any developmental delays will affect the way your child communicates with you, too.
  • Temperament describes the way a child tends to react to people, places and experiences. Some children adapt quickly to new situations and new experiences. Intense children tend to have dramatic reactions, taking longer to adapt, and will be frustrated more easily. Careful transitioning from one situation to another will help prepare your child and avoid really intense reactions.
  • Disability. Your child’s disability may affect behavior also. A child with sensory disorders may not be able to handle loud noises and places with many people. A child with autism may not look people in the eye and find it stressful being around other children stressful. This may result in tantrums.
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Encourage positive behaviors

Once you know that behaviors have a purpose and are affected by many factors, you can help your child build necessary skills to communicate more effective and positively.

  • Reinforce good behaviors. Praise your child when he or she demonstrates appropriate behaviors. When your child does the ‘right’ thing-something good.
  • Provide structure and consistency. Young children need rules and consistency, like schedules. The predictability and stability provides safe environments for learning.
  • Gather data. Keep a log that documents behaviors. Note when they occur, what your child is doing immediately before and after those behaviors and what is going on around your child at the time, as well. Any patterns identified are clues to preventing challenging behaviors from recurring. Then you can devise strategies to address these behaviors.
  • Name the encouraged behavior. When you name the appropriate behaviors you expect, you are helping your child with reinforcing it.
  • Put words to emotions. Help your child identify feelings and emotions and needs by teaching simple phrases such as, ” I don’t like that.” or “Help me please.” Teach your child to bring a conclusion to feelings like, “I’m finished being mad.”
  • Change the environment. If you can, change the environment so behaviors are reduced or eliminated. It helps your child.
  • Give choices. Your child will feel some sense of control when he or she is part of the siolution. Give choices, but not too many, because that’s too stressful for your child. Ask him or her whether they would like either this or that-2 options only.
  • Avoid power struggles. Make compromises with your child. It may look like, “I’ll pick up one toy and you pick up one toy.”

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99.9% of the time, behavior is how your child tells you something that he or she cannot put into words. Depending on ;your child’s developmental stage, temperament and disability, behavior is affected and determined. Keep a mindful awareness of your child’s ‘norms’ and when your child breaks from a norm, use effective behavior management skills to manage behaviors. Try some of these tips and strategies and let me know how they work out for you!

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Published by JaDonnia B.

An education and counseling professional, I focus my expertise on diversity, inclusion and family engagement/empowerment Of particular importance is the partnership between parents and the community schools that serve their children. Highlighting strategies, tips and evidence-based best practices for family engagement, my aim is to alter mindsets, broaden perspectives, foster empathy, and build capacity. Offering 'food for thought' and inviting discussion, I also tell truths rarely explored. A holistic culturally-responsive approach to teaching, learning and engaging others begins with respect. I promote respect and fully integrating curricular diversity in formal learning settings! Collaboration with families is necessary, because parents hold the master key that unlocks doors to child health and wellness, academic achievement, and believe it or not, teacher excellence and stronger school communities.

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