Search the FAQ Archives

3 - A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M
N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W - X - Y - Z
faqs.org - Internet FAQ Archives

misc.kids FAQ on Temper Tantrums


[ Usenet FAQs | Web FAQs | Documents | RFC Index | Schools ]
Archive-name: misc-kids/temper-tantrum
Posting-Frequency: monthly
Last-Modified: March 21, 1996

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
                    Misc.kids Frequently Asked Questions
                              Temper Tantrums

=====================================================================
Collection maintained by:  Gloria Logan  (glogan@atk.com)
Last updated:  March 21, 1996
=======================================================================
Copyright 1996, Gloria Logan.  Use and copying of this information are
permitted as long as (1) no fees or compensation are charged for
use, copies or access to this information, and (2) this copyright
notice is included intact.
=======================================================================
To contribute to this collection, please send e-mail to the address
given above, and ask me to add your comments to the FAQ file on Temper
Tantrums.  Please try to be as concise as possible, as these FAQ files
tend to be quite long as it is.  And, unless otherwise requested, your
name and e-mail address will not be included in the file.

For a list of other FAQ files, look for the FAQ File Index posted to
misc.kids weekly or check the misc.kids.info newsgroup.
=====================================================================


ADVICE FROM MISC.KIDDERS ON HOW TO DEAL WITH TEMPER TANTRUMS:


************************************************************************

A book, *Helping Young Children Flourish* by Aletha Solter, has helped
us *a lot*.

************************************************************************

My mother says I only threw one temper tantrum, once. She threw water on 
me, and I was so shocked I never did it again, she says. Speaking as one
who as an adult has had a very hard time with the issue of dealing with 
knowing what my feelings are at any given time, I do NOT recommend this 
approach. I don't think she was abusive to try this, but the results are 
not such that the technique should be encouraged. It is not a good idea
to teach a child that it's best to ignore your own feelings. I would
imagine that it would be far more beneficial, in the long run, to teach
the child better ways of expressing those feelings. This is obviously a
much more difficult task.

My son [2.4 yo] can generally be distracted from his temper tantrums,
and at any rate we view them as his own problem, not ours. If he wants
to have a fit because his sandwich has honey (which he likes) instead of
jelly, fine. When he calms down, he'll happily eat the sandwich. At such
times, it's easy for me to say soothingly things like "You're very
angry, aren't you? Sometimes it's hard to know what to do when you're
that upset." Hey, it's not my problem, and he'll learn to deal with this
sort of thing as he gets older. Knowing which problems are yours and
which are not is a key point in happy parenting.

The problem is when we *must* do something within a limited time period.
I confess that I am not dealing with this very well. It just makes me
crazy when I try to change his diaper before going to daycare, and he
struggles not to let me! I don't hit him, but I confess I sometimes want
to at times like that. I have tried yelling at him, which only scared
him--he laughed at me and continued to struggle at the time, but later
needed to be cuddled, indicating that he was upset. It didn't do a bit
of good, neither at the time nor when the next struggle came around, but 
it did make him less happy--clearly not a successful technique. My 
husband is much better than I am at this. Just now, when I described
this morning's struggle, in which I had to pin our son down with one of
my legs to force his shorts back on him so we could go to daycare, he
told me his, obviously superior, technique. He says he just goes and
gets the rechargeable electric screwdriver and gives it to our son to
play with.  With that marvelous distraction, anything else is acceptable
to him. The only problem is getting the screwdriver back. :-)

************************************************************************

I put tantrums into two distinct categories, and my reaction to them
depends on which category the tantrums fall under.  The first is what
has been termed the "tempering tantrum" where a child is just
overwhelmed, exhausted, frustrated (especially when they're pre-verbal),
hungry, etc. and the child just "loses it."  Those sorts of tantrums
basically elicit sympathy from me (and sometimes regret on my part for
not seeing it coming).  The second type of tantrum is the typical "I
want that and I'm going to throw a hissy fit until you give it to me"
tantrum.  In that case, I am very firm and have *never* given into such
a tantrum.  (Caveat:  if the "I want it" comes from a real need, like
the child is really thirsty, I would put that under the first type of
tantrum, and would give the child something to drink.)

As for the "how to handle" such tantrums, here's what I do and what has
worked well for us.  I'll take both cases separately.  First, with the
"tempering tantrum", I try to give my son a safe environment in which to
lose it, and sometimes, if he's in the mood, I will hold him gently
(often though, he would push me away in his agitated state).  Once the
storm has passed, I try to attend to his needs right away, and it is
often accompanied by an apology for not recognizing his limitations.
After all, a young child can't be expected to deal with difficult
situations like adults can (although we all know adults who still throw
temper tantrums!).  

When the tantrum is of the second kind, I will sometimes tell my son
"You can cry and scream all you want, but you're just not going to get
X."  If we're out in public, I try to remove him from the situation so
as not to disturb other people, but after I have taken him to somewhere
safe (a bench, for instance), I will then walk away because I don't want
to hear such a racket.  I always tell him that he can scream and get it
out of his system, but I don't have to put up with hearing it.  If we're
at home, I tell my son that he can go into his room and have a fit and
he's welcome to join me once he's calmed down.  

I don't know whether I just have an incredibly easy going child or
whether it's been our consistency that has paid off, but I will say
this--being consistent in almost every area of childrearing has paid big
dividends.  My son just never had the full-blown temper tantrums that
his peers have had, and for the "I want it" tantrum, they have blown
over in very short order.  He is nearing 4 years of age and I can't
remember the last time he had a real temper tantrum.  (I have noticed,
however, that when his best friend comes over to play or if we go over
to her house, he will typically lose it for about 5 minutes, usually
over something insignificant like a non-beloved toy, and then once the
storm has passed, will play happily for hours.  My friend (her mother)
and I both think that my son gets so excited about the prospects of
spending time with his best friend that he has all these pent-up
feelings that he has to let out before he can get all that adrenaline
out of his system.  I haven't noticed such behavior from him with any of
his other friends, BTW.)

Finally, I think that Penelope Leach says it quite well--temper tantrums
are awful things to go through, but just imagine how much worse it is
for the *child* who loses control.  I try to put myself in the child's
place as often as possible, and when I do that, I recognize just how
difficult it can be to act "grown up" and behave in a way that is just
so demanding sometimes.  So, while we have firm limits and we enforce
them consistently (without ever resorting to physical force), we also
are quite empathetic to the trials and tribulations of growing up.  I
imagine that young children get "information overload" probably daily,
and that can't be easy!  My son probably threw his tempering tantrums
most when he was just on the cusp of learning to put words together to
form sentences.  That took a lot of energy, concentration, etc., and for
a young child, that often means diverting energy and concentration away
from behaviors that have already been mastered, and that might
ultimately result in a tempering tantrum.

************************************************************************

I think the most important thing is to try to keep your cool!  Remember
that it's a very common behaviour and probably isn't a result of
something you've `done wrong'.

My approach to tantrums is:

  1. Try to get it in proportion in your own mind.  Often tantrums are
     pretty funny if you can be detached from them.

  2. Briefly explain the situation and what you are going to do (or not
     do).  E.G.  "I'm not going to give you that doll because it is
     Judy's present. You have a colouring book and I will help you
     colour the picture of the teddy bear if you want."  Pretend to be
     calm.

  3. Do what you say.

My golden rule is "Be calm, be gentle but DON'T GIVE IN."

It's probably worth trying to think of what might be frustrating her but
it's perfectly possible that the cause is just learning to live with the
world.

Probably the hardest thing about dealing with tantrums is dealing with
other adults.

************************************************************************

The way I handle the tantrum depends on why my son [3 yo] is having one.
If it is the result of being tired, he gets put in bed for a nap
(assuming he hasn't had one or is late for one which is the usual case).

Sometimes it is the result of too much attention on the baby.  In that
case, we (or which ever one of us is handy) go into the room where he
is playing and just be with him while he plays and occasionally ask him
questions about his play so he knows we are interested.  In these
instances, he asks us to watch him do some amazing feat, like jump or
pretend to bite, etc...

If it is just one of those days where the "n" word (no) sets him off, we
try a variety of things.
 - Time out,
 - go to your room until you are done fussing,
 - hold him and kiss him which leads to tickling which means that's what
   he wanted,
 - ignore him and let him just fuss for a few minutes

If we are going the discipline route, we tell him to calm down and talk
to us or just hush or "x punishment" will occur.  Then we follow through
with that discipline.

Occasionally, he does the "I'm just being a brat" type of tantrum in
which case he is warned he will be spanked.  If he yells back at me and
continues the tantrum, he gets about 3 smacks on his clothed behind with
my hand.  (Trust me, it hurts my hand more than his behind. But it gets
his attention.)  Sometimes he tries to play one parent against the
other, "daddy, mommy spanked my butt" Then the other parent "well, next
time mommy tells you to stop, stop and you won't get spanked". Once he
realizes that we are both disapproving of his behavior, he calms down.

The good side is now that he is 3, sometimes when he gets mad, after the
fit he tells us why he threw it.  Now I have started noticing the
difference between the brat and mad fit.  I let him get the mad fits out
of his system.  While in them, I tell him we all get mad sometimes and
it is okay but we don't always get what we want either.

************************************************************************

Temper tantrums when you pick the child up at day care actually can be 
a healthy sign, which actually stems from the normal separation anxiety 
the child may be having.  Here is what T. Berry Brazelton writes in 
chapter 35 ("Separation") of "Touchpoints":

        The baby, in turn, will learn her own ways of coping
     if she is in the care of a nurturing person.  Her protest
     when you leave is necessary and healthy.  She will turn to
     the other person. . . . They play, but not as vigorously
     as they would with parents.  They nap but don't sleep as
     deeply.  They store up their powerful reactions for the
     reunion at the end of the day . . . . She has saved up her
     protest, her intense feelings, all day for the one she can
     trust. . . . Parents need to realize that these intense
     reactions are necessary to a passionate reunion.

************************************************************************

We have three strategies for minimizing tantrums.  I think it is really
common to have these kinds of tantrums at transition times.

1.  Give time warnings before changing activities.  I'm surprised at how
well this works for us.  We often say in 5 minutes we are ......  Or,
after we read 3 books it's time to turn off the light.  This gives the
kid a chance to "adjust".

2.  Bring along an item to the new activity.  So, we usually take a
truck or animal up to take a bath.  Or a book to look at in the car.
This also helps bridge from one thing to another.

3.  Set up daily routines so that there is some expectation of what
comes next.  We aren't strictly regimented, but we have certain basic
rhythms to the day that seem to help keep things in order.

************************************************************************

[responding to post about 2.5 yo temper tantrums due to mom's pregnancy]

You'd be surprised at how much information children your daughter's age
can gather from their surroundings, and how much they understand.  Have
you thoroughly discussed your pregnancy and future sibling with her.  If
not, that may be part of the problem.  She probably can feel a drastic
change coming in her life (Mom is paying more attention to the baby in
her tummy, maybe she is being moved to another room soon, or the
crib/bassinet is moving into her room, or the new baby's room is
getting redecorated.  Maybe it's just talk about her sibling (as was the
case for us)).  Regardless, she may feel that she will not be loved as
much anymore.  Make sure that you involve her as much as she wants to be
involved in your pregnancy, but don't force her to do more than she
wants.  Our daughter just began to want to be involved with Mom's
pregnancy lately.  Before that it made her upset when we discussed it,
so we tried not to in front of her more than we had to.  Make sure that
you do special things for her - for instance, if you are redecorating
the baby's room, redecorate her room a bit, too.  Assure her that she
will not be loved any less, and make sure that you give her as much
attention as you did before - maybe more.  There should also be time for
just you and her after the baby is born as well.  These feelings are
quite common in children that age when Mommy is expecting again.  Things
change a lot during pregnancy (and after I assume) when there is already
precious little one around.  They don't understand that we can love each
of them as much.  I heard a great analogy - Imagine if your husband
brought home a wife one day and said "This is another wife, and I will
love you just as much as before - you'll like her".  I had never thought
of that before.  Gave me new insight into our daughter's feelings and it
has helped everyone a lot.

************************************************************************

My daughter has been a pretty well-behaved two year old.  We have the
occasional problem, the stiffening up when you try to put her in the
car seat, the "I-don't-wanna" syndrome, etc..  But overall, she's been
great.

When she was about 18 months old, she would have HORRIBLE tantrums.  I
remembered reading in a Penelope Leach book about how they don't know
why they are having tantrums, and you should just hold them throughout
the entire episode.  We successfully did this for awhile, and the
tantrums slowly subsided.

Now they have returned, for whatever reason.  My daughter is 26 months
old, and has been testing the boundaries of independence for quite
awhile.  Today was bad, though.  She was upset about SOMETHING (who
knows what.) and decided that she would hit and kick and scream until
someone helped her.

I picked her up, absorbed a few blows to the face and just kept
holding her and telling her that it was going to be ok.  I stroked her
head, sang to her, kept repeating that she was going to be ok, while
she was fighting me all the way.  It took awhile, but she finally
calmed down enough and told me that she was sorry (without any
prompting!!!) 

It seems that sometimes a two year old's frustrations can get out of
hand.  They don't know why, you don't know why and it's good to have a
little time-out for both of you.  I found that it worked very well,
but I was wondering if anyone else had tried this particular method of
stopping tantrums?  Let me know!

************************************************************************

[responding to post about 2 year old's temper tantrums]

: I picked her up, absorbed a few blows to the face and just kept
: holding her and telling her that it was going to be ok.  I stroked
: her head, sang to her, kept repeating that she was going to be ok,
: while she was fighting me all the way.  It took awhile, but she
: finally calmed down enough and told me that she was sorry (without
: any prompting!!!) 

That's interesting that it works for your daughter.  My daughter gets
*more* hysterical if I try to pick her up or hold her or even look at
her when she's in the midst of a tantrum.  But you know what does
work?  Having her lay on the couch under her blankie.  For instance,
last night she was helping me with dishes (she likes to dry the
plastic items) and something frustrated her (I forget what) and she
got *really* mad at me.  She went over to her Magna Doodle and
started pounding on it which I told her she couldn't do (not allowed
to destroy her toys) so she "timed out" herself on the couch.  She
likes being all coverd up with the blanket (sometimes with it over
her head too) and within 10-20 minutes she is usually recovered from
the problem.  

Initially I started this with my daughter by putting her on the couch
when she was upset but now she usually does it to herself.  She also
has been known to run in the spare bedroom and throw herself on the
bed in there to cool off.  

Different styles for different kids I guess!  :)

************************************************************************

[responding to post about 2 year old's temper tantrums]

>My daughter has been a pretty well-behaved two year old.  We have the
>occasional problem, the stiffening up when you try to put her in the
>car seat, the "I-don't-wanna" syndrome, etc..  But overall, she's
>been great.

My daughter (turned 2 last week) has been pretty much the same.  We
feel pretty lucky.  She definitely has tantrums, but overall, she's
fairly reasonable.

>It seems that sometimes a two year old's frustrations can get out of
>hand.  They don't know why, you don't know why and it's good to have
>a little time-out for both of you.  I found that it worked very well,
>but I was wondering if anyone else had tried this particular method
>of stopping tantrums?  Let me know!

I've tried this a few times, but it never works for us!  My daughter
also gets into her tantrum and basically forgets what started it.  I
try talking to her, and asking her to use her words to tell me what
she wants, etc.  Once she's really into it, she usually won't be able
to tell me specifically what she wants.  What I do is ask her to tell
me when she's all done crying.  And then I'll ask her if she's all
done crying ("NO - I crying!!" :-)).  But, soon she will stop and say,
"I'm all done crying" or her latest is, "I calmed down now." :-)  I
think she just basically needs to cry.  I don't really like it, but
I can't really stop it.  Holding her and trying to comfort her seems
to just make her madder. 

Does your daughter get madder when you hold her, and *then* eventually
calm down?  I feel like I'm making things worse when she gets madder.
My daughter doesn't hit or kick, luckily.  I am pretty good at
ignoring her fits - she knows she's not going to get anything out of
them (she never does).

If we're at home, I will ask her to go to her room to cry or
sometimes, I'll put her in time-out - although time-out hasn't been
extremely effective for us.  My daughter will NOT sit in time-out if
she's in full tantrum.  We have to use a baby gate and put her in her
room if we really want to isolate her.  I feel like just ignoring it
produces about the same effect.  

I'm interested - are some people just able to ignore screaming better
than others?  I can really ignore it (even if she's doing it in the
car with me).  My husband is bothered much more by it and wants to
speed up the stopping of it.  I really don't think there's much harm
in letting the fit wind itself down (as long as she doesn't get
anything out of the fit).  My husband tends to try to get her to stop
crying (telling her over and over to stop; time-out, etc.).

************************************************************************

[responding to post about 2 year old's temper tantrums]

>I've tried this a few times, but it never works for us!  My daughter
>also gets into her tantrum and basically forgets what started it.  I
>try talking to her, and asking her to use her words to tell me what
>she wants, etc.  Once she's really into it, she usually won't be able
>to tell me specifically what she wants.  What I do is ask her to tell
>me when she's all done crying.  And then I'll ask her if she's all
>done crying ("NO - I crying!!" :-)).  But, soon she will stop and say,
>"I'm all done crying" or her latest is, "I calmed down now." :-)  I
>think she just basically needs to cry.  I don't really like it, but
>I can't really stop it.  Holding her and trying to comfort her seems
>to just  make her madder. 

I think that we need to trust them to an extent - their frustration
is real; they have very little control over their environment, and 
they hate that.  And their emotions have relatively little cognitive
mediation at this age - it's just pure emotion.  My daughter has
always been intense with her emotions.  Most of the time this means
that she is thrilled with life, enthusiastic, and having a great time.
But sometimes it means that there is a volcano in the living room.  :-)

>I'm interested - are some people just able to ignore screaming better
>than others?

Well, I think I am able to *tolerate* my daughter's screaming pretty
well.  That doesn't mean I'm really ignoring it.  Depending on the
situation my preferred method is to sit near her (or hold her if that's
what she wants) and let her have her feelings with me there.  Sometimes
she asks to be alone, and I respect that, too.  If possible, I like
to process it with her a bit afterwards, so she can talk about her
feelings more and more instead of just screaming.  She is slowly
getting better (for whatever reason).  But her feelings really are
intense and she still gets swept up in them.  (Obviously the above
works best in the controlled situation of the home.  When we are
out, things have to be modified.  <I shudder at the memories of my
daughter's 2 yr old public tantrums and is glad we're through with
THAT stage!>)

Note: if this was the 15th 2 yr old tantrum of the day and I didn't
have time to sit with my daughter, the next best thing would be to do
something nearby, and keep saying things to let her know that I was
still there, e.g. "Wow, you're still REALLY angry", etc.  Although I'm
not a saint and there were times when my own frustration level caused
me to give myself a time-out.  :-)  Not optimal, but sometimes
necessary!

>I can really ignore it (even if she's doing it in the car with me).
>My husband is bothered much more by it and wants to speed up the
>stopping of it.  I really don't think there's much harm in letting the
>fit wind itself down (as long as she doesn't get anything out of the
>fit).  My husband tends to try to get her to stop crying (telling her
>over and over to stop; time-out, etc.).

Aaaack.  Your husband's approach is admittedly one of my pet peeves
of life.  Whenever we hear a parent doing this, my husband grabs
my arm as if to restrain me  :-).  I guess I will be as mild as I
can and ask if it is effective, and what results might obtain from
this method?  Like, what is this saying to the child?  And how would
most adults react to be told over and over to stop crying?

************************************************************************

[responding to post about 2 year old's temper tantrums]

>I think that we need to trust them to an extent - their frustration
>is real; they have very little control over their environment, and 
>they hate that.  And their emotions have relatively little cognitive
>mediation at this age - it's just pure emotion.  My daughter has
>always been intense with her emotions.  Most of the time this means
>that she is thrilled with life, enthusiastic, and having a great
>time.  But sometimes it means that there is a volcano in the living
>room. :-)

I agree.  My daughter, having just turned 2, is showing this extreme
range of emotions.  It's really fascinating.  Most of the time, she's
really overjoyed with life.  She just shrieks with happiness.  And
really, we are lucky so far - her tantrums don't last very long and
are usually avoidable with a little patience and planning (she's
really into "I DO IT ALL BY MYSELF!!").  Taking the few moments to
let her do something herself (or at least try) will usually save a
tantrum.

>Note: if this was the 15th 2 yr old tantrum of the day and I didn't
>have time to sit with my daughter, the next best thing would be to do
>something nearby, and keep saying things to let her know that I
>was still there, e.g. "Wow, you're still REALLY angry", etc.

My daughter often doesn't want anyone sitting near her when she's
fitting.  She'll push me away, and say, "Go 'WAY, Mama!!"  I try to
respect that too.  

>Aaaack.  Your husband's approach is admittedly one of my pet peeves
>of life.  Whenever we hear a parent doing this, my husband grabs
>my arm as if to restrain me  :-).  I guess I will be as mild as I
>can and ask if it is effective, and what results might obtain from
>this method?  Like, what is this saying to the child?  And how would
>most adults react to be told over and over to stop crying?

I don't really agree with his method.  He's not harsh about it - he
just really can't tolerate screaming.  It's one of those things that
really gets on his nerves.  He needs to work on that. :-)  I actually
can't remember the last time he headed for time-out for screaming.
My daughter is doing so much better at expressing her needs.  Many
times a tantrum will be right under the surface over which one of us
does something for her.  "Mommy do it!" or "Daddy do it!" are two of
her favorite phrases right now.  And we absolutely make every
reasonable effort to accomodate her wishes.  When there's something
she initially says she doesn't want to do, once we ask if she wants
Mama to do it or Daddy to do it, she'll almost always pick one.  

I wonder - is there ever a time when you think screaming is not
justified - or maybe that isn't phrased right.  I tolerate screaming
over having to leave the swing set (because of time or whatever)
much better (I totally understand that she LOVES to swing and
it's very painful to her to leave it) than yelling and screaming when
the food she wants isn't *instantly* on her plate.  She can see
that I'm going to the refrigerator or cabinet, and she still begins
screaming.  I politely ask her to calm down in this case.  And most
of the time, this kind of whining/crying is NOT before she's had
anything to eat at that particular (so that she's not ravenously
hungry - she's usually already had something).  

Sorry I got so long-winded!  This 2YO stuff really fascinates me!
A 2YO is such a wonderful, complex creature!  I work daily to
understand better and be most aware of her feelings! 

************************************************************************

[responding to post about 3 yo throwing public temper tantrum]

One mother who posted a while back had this very same problem.  At her
wits end, she playfully asked her 3 y.o. "I'll bet you can't walk
backwards all the way to the car!"  It worked!  He walked backwards all
the way out of the mall and across the parking lot.

************************************************************************

[responding to post about 3 yo throwing public temper tantrum]

I think your child deserves consistent treatment for tantrums so that
there's less confusion.  I, too, have a young child who has public
tantrums which can be excruciating.  It takes a major effort to stay
calm and handle a screaming child who has pitched himself onto the
sidewalk (broken glass, etc.).  The last thing you need is a
"well-meaning" citizen judging you.  Similar, if less dramatic, instants
have happened to me as well.  A kindly stranger told me that my son
"just needed love" when he wanted to be carried for our walk around the
block.  When I pointed out that I was showing love at that moment by
insisting that my son walk instead of ride, he stood there.  I guess he
thought he was protecting the kid from an evil parent.  Eventually, I
just said that we were fine and would he please mind his own business.
You just can't hope to educate everyone.  When you're a parent, people
judge you--it comes with the package.  Call on whatever inner strength
that gets you through the day and keep on being the best parent you know
how to be.  Everyone else either will or won't get the point.  Treat a
public tantrum like a private tantrum.

************************************************************************

What to do when one's child throws a tantrum in public.

What worked for me:

   When the child begins to misbehave, I say: "That's not an OK way to
   behave in public.  If you continue to act that way, we will have to
   leave immediately."

   Then, if the misbehavior continues, _keep_your_promise_.  Leave
   immediately and go to some non-public place -- home, if it's close;
   if not, maybe just out to the car.  Say, "You may not behave that way
   in public.  When you behave that way, you show that you're not ready
   to be in a public place, so we had to leave.  Do you understand?"

   Don't just time-out and go back in a couple minutes; terminate that
   public activity.

   This is inconvenient for the parent, but it seems to work.  Twice I
   left the grocery store without purchasing anything;  twice we had to
   leave a restaurant -- once halfway through a meal, and once before
   our food even arrived (yes, I paid for food I never saw).

As I say, it worked for me.  As always, your mileage may vary.

It's my impression that many of the ill-behaved children one sees have
parents who are unwilling to inconvenience themselves to deal with their
children, or who threaten sanctions that they then do not then impose,
or impose unpredictably.

************************************************************************

My mum found a very novel approach to her then three year old having
tantrums every time they went out.  After the various other methods had
been tried (ignoring it, leaving, spanking, not spanking and others I
can't recall) she decided to embarrass the toddler.  Tessa threw her
millionth tantrum in Safeway's so mum got down on the floor and threw a
tantrum too.  A very sheepish toddler stopped misbehaving almost
immediately.

It took guts, but it worked.

As for onlookers becoming parent police, there's not a whole lot you can
do, just remain calm and look forward to the day when you can watch
them go through the same problem.

************************************************************************

[responding to post about 4 yo public temper tantrum]

From the description, it sounds as if the tantrum was clearly one that
was of the "I don't want to leave this incredibly fun thing I'm doing to
go home" type of tantrum, as opposed to the "tempering tantrum" or more
specifically, the tantrums that arise due to exhaustion, overstimulation,
hunger, inability to verbalize, etc.  I agree that the parent in that
situation should hold her ground, because once you give in to a "I want
X" tantrum, you immediately signal to the child that tantrums are
effective ways of getting what you want.

However, I've been in the situation of the woman above (though no one
called the police, thankfully).  But, instead of dragging my kid to the
car, I just put him on a bench and let him wail and scream after I told
him that we *were* leaving and as soon as he calmed down, we could go to
the car.  I was standing roughly 10 yards from him, not wanting to have
my eardrums punctured :-0, and I withstood a lot of looks--those with
young children or who knew young children gave me looks of sympathy--
those without any children looked at me as if I were a heartless
murderer.  I just kept reminding myself that I did not have to answer to
these strangers, and that I would probably never see them again anyway,
so screw 'em.  (BTW, I *did* carry my son out of the store as soon as he
started his tantrum, as I felt it would have been incredibly rude to
allow him to disrupt everyone else's enjoyment of the store; in an open
mall, where the screams don't produce the unbearable decibel levels of
an enclosed store, I felt it was OK to let his tantrum run its course,
though the bench I selected was far away enough from any store openings
so as not to disturb the people inside.)

Now, after my son calmed down and we went home, we talked about the
incident after both of us had regained our composure.  I told him that
(1) in the future, I would give him a 10-minute, then 5-minute, then
2-minute warning before we had to leave a store (nowadays though, we
simply negotiate on the time and I set my countdown timer on my watch
accordingly); and (2) we would not go back to that particular store for
a week because of his behavior.  We also agreed that if he threw a
tantrum like that again, it would be ignored, just as the first one was,
and he would lose the privilege of going back to the store for yet
another week.  I'm happy to report that we have had no further scenes of
that kind.  Perhaps it's because my son is pretty easy-going most of the
time anyway, but I like to think that partly, it's due to the fact that
we set limits, talk about the consequences of breaking those limits, and
we follow through consistently (one of the advantages of being an
obsessive compulsive :-0).  Therefore, periods of limits testing, which
are IMO inevitable, are usually very short-lived in our household.

In the example that was given by the original poster, it sounds as if
the parents might benefit from reminding the child about the "store
rules" before entering the store.  Even at close to 4 years of age,
those reminders help immensely with our child (though now, we simply ask
him what the rules are, as he is old enough to know the rules and
prefers to tell us what the rules are rather than to have the rules
repeated for him).  I just take it as a given that no child (or adult
for that matter) wants to leave a fun place, and advance preparation is
crucial.  "Psyching" a child up for the eventual transition from playing
to leaving has helped for virtually every child with whom I've ever
interacted.  Allowing some time for negotiation, and making compromises
on both sides are valuable skills, IMO, and they also empower the child.
My son knows that when I tell him it's time to leave somewhere, it's not
mere caprice that motivates me.  And, knowing that he'll ask for "6 more
minutes" or something, I can plan for that eventuality and thus start
the "early warning system" well in advance of our scheduled departure.

************************************************************************

[responding to post about 4 yo temper tantrums]

Welcome to the Fearsome Fours!  We've been having them for quite some
time with our daughter, age 4-11/12, and they're showing some signs of
abating.  (Finally, thank goodness)  From what I can see, it's one of
those terrible behavior just before some big developmental leap kinds
of things.  In our daughter's case, I'm sure it's that reading [well] is
just around the corner.

We argue constantly about cleaning her room, (fiend that I am, I make
her pick up her own toys), what to eat (you can pick what you want, but
once you pick, buddy, that's it, you eat it), bedtime, need I say more?
It is always worse when I'm busy or tired, and can't take the time to
really work with her.

I try my best to allow my daughter to make as many choices as possible:
she picks her own meals, after I define the choices, she can pick any
outfit she wants for school (I put weather appropriate outfits together
on one hanger, and she picks the hanger), and give her the choice of
bedtime story.  This helps a lot.  The struggling is always worse when
my daughter feels that she has no choices.

I also explain the rules, and talk about why they are important.  For
example, bedtime is important because you have to get up early for
school.  Baths are important so you don't stink [insert nose holding and
pee-yew sound effects, followed by giggling here].  We talk about this
when we're both calm, and not in the middle of a confrontation.  My
daughter often asks about "When I was a kid, and dinosaurs roamed the
Earth", and if I had to take baths, go to bed, etc.  I tell her stories
about my misbehavior, and the rule in effect when I was a child.  She
then talks to my mother to confirm the details :-)

Mostly, I try to go with the flow.  There are a few things I won't bend
on - taking medicine, for example; but for the most part, who really
cares if she picked grilled cheese for supper eight days in a row?
There are so many things that little kids have no control over, why not
let her control as much as she can.

Obviously, YMMV.  I can see how this would be far more difficult to do
with several children.  However, you're not alone!

************************************************************************

[responding to post about 4 yo temper tantrums]

Four year olds are a little better able to reason than 2 and 3 year
olds.  Since my daughter has had tantrums at all of these ages I'm an
expert :). What worked with her when she was 4:  One day when a tantrum
earlier in the day was a fresh memory, we sat down for a talk. I got
down on her face, looked her in the eye and said "I want to make sure
you understand that when you have a tantrum, that means that you will
_not_ get whatever you are having the tantrum about.  Sometimes we get a
little toy when we go to the market.  But when you have a tantrum about
getting a toy, that means you will not get a toy that time. Do you
understand?"

Ever since then whenever I hear a tantrum winding up I remind her that
the way to guarantee that she won't get <whatever> is to have a tantrum.
I also complement her behavior when I can tell she wants to have a
tantrum but holds it back, those are the times I'm more likely to give
her what she asks for.

I can't even remember the last tantrum -- so maybe this worked or maybe
she just outgrew them.

************************************************************************

Last night my husband and I went through a rather awful ordeal with our
son, one that I truly hope is NOT repeated again. I blame our *reactions*
to what Colin was doing as being the real culprit here. It began when he
wouldn't eat dinner, after he had chosen what he wanted and I made it.  I
have to admit I lost my cool, and put the dinner down the garbage disposal,
after it became apparent he was going off to play and had no intention of
eating it (I never force him to eat...it was just...Colin, are you going to
eat dinner now?  NO! etc.)  Of course, when he saw his food (which he
didn't want anyway) going bye-bye, he pitched a total fit. And I, in turn,
began yelling back at him as to WHY had he wasted his food, etc. Like a 2
year-old would know. It was really a sight to behold.  He stood and cried,
I stood and yelled.  Pretty bad for a grown-up, huh?  Well, we both finally
calmed down and I made him something else and he ate and smiled and we
kissed and made up and then daddy got home. My husband was very upset when
I told him I had yelled at Colin...he said don't yell at him, it's wrong,
etc.

Part two.  By this time, it was late and Colin needed his bath.  So daddy
goes to take him upstairs.  Tantrum #2 begins, this time MUCH worse than
before and this time for apparently no reason, I guess just because he's 2
and he can!  I waited downstairs to see how long it would take for my
husband to lose it...he lasted longer than I did.  When I finally heard a
huge yell, I went upstairs and took over, because by then *I* had calmed
down.  When *I'm* calm, I can quickly calm our son down, which I did. 
After that, everything was fine.  

My husband and I were both really shaken afterward; in fact, I still was
this morning.  I really had no desire to hit my son while this all was
going on...hitting during a tantrum, in my opinion, accomplishes less than
nothing.  I KNOW I shouldn't have yelled, but I just couldn't understand
WHY he was going so crazy.  I guess we need to step back, take deep
breaths, see these things before they happen, and handle them in a MUCH
calmer mode than we did.  I think empathy on our part is called for here
and in future situations.  Do any of y'all out there ever totally lose it? 
*Please* say yes...I hate to think we're the only (sometimes) meanies
around!

************************************************************************

[more good ideas straight from the misc.kids newsgroup]

>>I just have to share this with everyone. Recently I was conducting a 
>>parent support group and the parents raised the topic of Temper Tantrums. 
>>On parent suggested to the other that the next time her child throws a 
>>temper tantrum in public that she hold up a sign saying "WARNING TEMPER 
>>TANTRUM IN PROGRESS" What a wonderful idea. Ignore the temper tantrum 
>>while you are in public and give those that pass by and watch a good 
>>laugh! The parent said that after she started using the sign, the 
>>frequency of Temper tantrums declined and are now extremely rare when in 
>>public. 
>
>When I was growing up, the kitchen floor was white tile with a few decorative 
>squares of orange tile.  Whenever my brother or I would have a tantrum, Mom or 
>Dad would tell us to have it on the orange square.  Same principle, I guess, 
>they made light of the tantrum with a bit of silliness.  I plan to use 
>something similar.  Ann's a little young for tantrums yet, so we've got a few 
>years to find orange floor tiles :-).

I like it!  I also used distracting silliness.  Sometimes I would give
directions:  "You need to kick more with your left leg."  or I would say, "No,
no.  Let me show you." and then get down and do it better or give
encouragement, "Ooh, I like the drooling.  It gives a professional touch."  I
don't know why but my kids never really got into temper tantrums very much. :-)

************************************************************************

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic:

CAPTCHA


[ Usenet FAQs | Web FAQs | Documents | RFC Index ]

Send corrections/additions to the FAQ Maintainer:
glogan@atk.com (Gloria Logan)





Last Update March 27 2014 @ 02:11 PM