How to Handle Temper Tantrums

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Back when my LO first started having tantrums, I remember thinking “Oh this is going to be easy!” Boy was I wrong!! The tantrums that he used to have when he first started having them were nothing compared to what was to come. I thought that I had done my research and was prepared for what he was going to do. Again, I miscalculated the thinkings of my LO. I hope that this page gives you hope and helps you deal with your own LO’s tantrums.

What is a Tantrum?

A tantrum is defined as an “uncontrolled outburst of anger or frustration”. These usually start happening in children around the age of 1 and can go on for several years. They may stay small, or can escalate. Every child is different and so their tantrums will be different.

As children are growing, they start to experience more of the range of emotions that we adults have and have not yet learned how to deal with them. The only way that they know is to lash out and have a tantrum or temper tantrum until they learn how to handle and cope with these feelings.

This is also a way for them to push back and help them gain their independence. Many times a tantrum is brought on by restrictions for what the child wants, and so lashes out because they did not get their way.

I would also like to note that a tantrum is a way to get attention. If the LO isn’t getting what they want, and then they throw a tantrum, or temper tantrum, this is them trying to get what they want.

The Difference Between a Tantrum and a Temper Tantrum

To me, there is a difference between a tantrum and a temper tantrum. The tantrum is one in which can be somewhat easily distracted from. The LO having the fit is not as committed to what s/he is upset about and it can fizzle out pretty easily. This can include some mild crying, tears, sniffles, dirty looks and sometimes the cold shoulder as it wears off.

On the other hand, a temper tantrum is a full-blown meltdown. This one the person having the temper tantrum is not as easily swayed from having a fit over not getting what they want or their way. It can include, but is not exclusive to screaming, throwing things, tears, crying, hitting, stomping, laying on the ground and so on. This version can go on for a long time, depending on how it is handled and what it is about.

How to Handle the Tantrum

What I have found is the best way for me to handle a tantrum is to ignore it. It is usually over something pretty trivial such as I have not given 15 minutes before dinner is done. As long as he is not doing anything to try to seriously hurt himself or another living thing I try my best to ignore responding to what he does.

Another way that has worked well is to distract him. If I am able, I will bring out his favorite books and ask if he wants me to read them to him. This is not ideal as it is giving him the attention that will continue the tantrum, but it will cease the tantrum much faster than if you wait it out and let your LO find something else to do, IE distracting them self.

The goal of the tantrum is to ultimately get what they want and attention. If you give either to them, they will equate their tantrum behavior as a very effective way to get what they want.

If you know that your LO is safe and/or being watched by more than yourself, try to distract yourself so that you don’t give in to what they are wanting. Put on some music, or go in the other room.

I remember reading on a post one time about a Mother who was reduced to locking herself in the bathroom to avoid her child’s tantrum. She was worried about her kid, but then another Mom pointed out that if her child was crying right outside the door, she knew where her kid was and that he wasn’t getting into anything he wasn’t supposed to.

How to Handle the Temper Tantrum

As I stated above, a temper tantrum is a whole different animal. These can last for what seems like forever and in my own personal experience, my LO has maybe himself gag and dry heave he was so upset. There is usually a considerable amount of snot, tears, and some of the most sour faces I have ever seen on a person.

He also went through a phase where he was running headfirst at the wall, so hard he was bruising himself. I stopped him the first couple times, but after that let him do it. He was not causing permanent damage and by me stopping him he was getting the attention he was seeking. He stopped after many attempts on his part and me not rushing to “his rescue”.

The best thing that I have found when this happens is to just let it run its course. I of course keep an eye on him to make sure he is not hurting himself, or others, and let him throw his fit.

If he gets to the point where he is starting to gag and dry heave because he has worked himself up so much, I just scoop him up, take him to the couch to sit next to me, and rock while humming. I will make sure there is a movie or TV show that he normally enjoys on to help distract him a little bit.

When to Intervene

Whether it is a tantrum or a temper tantrum, the only time I really intervene is when my LO starts to try and take his frustrations out on another living thing or himself. I know that it might sound cruel, but him lying on the floor trying to get what he wants is a way for him to get his feelings out and will help him learn how to deal with those emotions later on.

Giving in is one of the worst things that you can do. This will reinforce in his mind that when he doesn’t initially get his way, all he has to do is cry, stomp his feet, throw something or whatever your LO does as a tantrum, and then he will get his way. This is not something that you want to reinforce at all.

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