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Temper Tantrums in Young Children


Tantrums in multigenerational families

In families where grandparents live with the grand children, children can become manipulative unless all adults decide on the ground rules. If a grandparent interferes when the parent is dealing with a child’s tantrum and advises the parent to give in, then the child will understand the power equations and manipulate the situation to her advantage. Cultural aspects too come into play. In some families, every wish of a male child will be pandered to, while girl children are expected to be less demanding. This will lead to male children using tantrums to get their way. It is important for parents to be aware of these dimensions and act suitably.

What if my child becomes destructive or dangerous?
Remove your child from the situation and enforce a time-out.

• Select a time out spot - Seat your child in a boring place, such as in a chair in the living room facing a corner; never lock up a child in the bathroom. Wait for your child to calm down. Consider giving one minute of time-out for every year of your child’s age.
• Stick with it – If your child begins to wander around before the timeout is over, return her to the designated timeout spot. Don’t respond to anything your child says while she is in timeout.
• End the timeout well – When your child has calmed down, discuss the reason for the timeout and why the behaviour was inappropriate. Then return to your usual activities.

Word of caution: Do not use timeouts frequently; they may not be effective.

What about tantrums in public?
When there is parent-child conflict in public, parents tend to react in one of two ways. Either they hustle the children
out of the store, often carrying them in their arms, or they punish the children more severely than is their custom. This happens because parents assume that the other adults who are watching, are judging them critically. However, it is more likely that those adults would have experienced similar situations with their own children or in their families. A few stares do not mean that people are passing judgement on our parenting skills!

When your child has a tantrum in a public place, focus on the needs of your child. Don’t let your embarrassment make you more concerned about the opinions of strangers than about the needs of your child. As parents relax, children learn to be restrained in public spaces.

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