Facts for Families

Facts for Families

Accent photo

Taming Tantrums

Photo of Cheri Burcham

Cheri Burcham
Extension Educator, Family Life
cburcham@illinois.edu

By Cheri Burcham, Family Life Educator



Can you think of a time where either you had a toddler or you witnessed a toddler in the store checkout line throwing a tantrum? Google's definition of tantrum is "an uncontrolled outburst of anger and frustration, typically in a young child". As a parent it is difficult to handle this uncontrolled outburst. Extension Educator Tessa Hobbs-Curley says that how a parent responds can help defuse the situation and help the child for the future.

Think about it. Does it help if the parent gives in to the child acting out over wanting a piece of candy? The parent might surrender for many reasons such as, feeling exhausted, embarrassed, wanting to quickly get out of the store, or all of the above. Keep in mind that children are constantly learning. Frustration is mentioned in the definition of tantrum. Many young children are trying to learn to manage emotions. When they become challenged or have trouble figuring something out, that is when frustration can trigger anger. Parents will never be able to prevent tantrums all together but there are many approaches they can take to address them.

Tessa shares that this past week she had the opportunity to watch a parent with his toddler in action. The parent did a marvelous job addressing the situation. The key was that he stayed calm. Even though there was a gym full of band parents and youth watching the situation, the parent stayed calm and used a very caring voice to speak to his child. The child's outburst lasted only a couple minutes as he sat there on the floor. As parents we have to be careful not to give attention to the outburst but, to mention later that the behavior will not get your attention.

Consider what you can do to help address or discourage tantrums:

· Be consistent- Have a routine at home, shopping, and school.

· Plan ahead- Make sure you child is fed before going to the store. Pack a small snack or toy to occupy their time.

· Let your child make choices- If you are shopping for fruit ask if they want bananas or strawberries.

· Praise good behavior- Acknowledge the behavior you are expecting and wanting. This could be with an extra hug and praise.

· Avoid situations that can trigger tantrums- Steer clear of areas of temptations in stores. Be mindful of your child's age and what can tempt them.

What happens if your child is destructive or dangerous? Well, make sure that you don't make threats. Plan ahead a select timeout spot or location. Keep in mind that you don't want it to be an incentive so, make sure it is at a place that doesn't resemble a reward. Again, be consistent with your consequences. It is important that if you mention a discipline then stick with it. Don't ignore it because again, the child is learning. Make sure you end time outs and discipline at a reasonable time. Sometimes as parents we become angry and we need to make sure we can follow through with the discipline.

Written by Tessa Hobbs-Curley for Family Files. Sources: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/tantrum/art-20047845

For more information on University of Illinois Unit 19 programming and to read more helpful articles, visit our website at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/ccdms/index.html or call us at (217)345-7034. Also visit the Family Files Blog at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/hkmw/eb380/

View Article Archive >>