In the last couple of weeks I spoke of the reasons why younger children and toddlers often have temper tantrums. Toddler tantrums are fairly common and is due to the enormous explosion of brain development that take place in toddlers around the age of 2 years. With this development comes increased independence and personal preferences. However our young children still have a limited understanding of what is going on in the world around them and are challenged and confused by the emotions they feel. Their lack of understanding means, they have no idea why you ask them to do something that they clearly don’t want to do! Toddler tantrums normally tend to wane away around the age of 4 or 5 years as they develop a better understanding of the world and they develop their abilities. However, there are instances when temper tantrums continue and remain in older children.
If you have an older child who has constant tempers or tends to lose control of his feelings often when dealing with the situation, you as a parent, need to help him gain control of his emotions. Here are some tips on how you can help your child manage his emotions:
- Identify the reason why your child is having a temper tantrum – if your child has started to develop tantrums recently, identifying the reason is important. Behaviour changes in your child could be due to many reasons; was there a change of situation? A change in family dynamics? Is your child being bullied or maybe even having ‘problems’ with friends? Is school work becoming difficult to manage? Has your child recently been sick? Is there a sibling that he is maybe jealous of? It’s important to remember that temper tantrums stem from frustration in kids, their inability to manage ‘situations’ can cause them to lose control when dealing with different other situations. It is imperative to firstly find out the reason why your child is acting out. Finding the root of the problem will help you handle the situation better.
- Talk to your child – it is part of your duty to help your child understand that his temper tantrums are not positive behaviour and that there are consequences to this sort of behaviour. Talk in depth to your child about his life at the moment and dig deep till you find out the reason why he may be acting out. If your child is older, getting him to talk maybe difficult, mood swings coupled with the fact that children usually want to shield their parents from ‘trouble and problems’ that they face will shut them off to communication. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you communicate with your child and let you child know that you will be available when he wants to talk.
- Set the right example – children reflect how you behave. Watch yourself and check how you react to situations where you lose your cool. How do you behave when you get ticked off with traffic or that person who cut you off when you where driving? How do you talk to your spouse and other children? Children learn by example and of course think that your behaviour is the right one. This is not to say that you are the reason your child loses his cool, but if your family is fairly aggressive in situations, you will find that your child too gets frustrated easily and is not able to manage his feelings well.
- Reward your child – start a system of rewarding your child for positive behaviour. So when your child is in a potentially frustrated situation, point out to your child that he can choose how to behave. If he learns to manage his emotion and takes control, reward him! Make sure though that you are not bribing him! If you say, stop crying or shouting and I’ll get you a toy, you are feeding into his tantrum and this in turn will cause more tantrums.
- Discipline your child positively – if you find that your child’s tantrums are a bit shallow – as in he throws a tantrum to get what he wants – a holiday, his favourite takeout or a toy, do not feed into it. If you give into him and let him have what he wants, the tantrums will continue and he will grown into an adult who believes that if he shouts and stomps his feet, he will get his way. Not the most positive behaviour out there, so disciplining your child positively is very important. Create clear ground rules and stick to them.
- Help your child manage his emotions – if your older child continues to have anger issues, teach him anger management techniques that help him identify his emotions and reasons why they surface. You can try some yoga or concentration classes that will help him learn to shift his mood from anger and frustration to a calmer temperament that will help him deal with situations better.
- Consider changing his diet – processed food, especially ones with added preservatives and red colour have a significant effect on your child’s behaviour. Excessive sugar in your child’s diet can also have a negative effect. Go organic or if not as fresh as you can get.
- Don’t be too rigid – chose your battles! You’ll win the war this way. As a parent you will know given the situations you are in, which situations you can be a bit more flexible. If there are situations you can be more flexible, give in – as long as you don’t feed negative behaviour!
- Make sure your child has enough sleep – it’s normal for anyone to lose their control when they haven’t had enough sleep. As your child grows older, they often stop having their naps or have too many scheduled activities after school which can make them tired. Add into that late nights and bed times which have got extended and early mornings, you have on your hands tired and cranky kids. Make sure your child has enough sleep as recommended by your paediatrician and if your child is at a stage where he has outgrown naps; at least make sure he has scheduled quiet time activities. Enough rest will have an extremely positive change in his behaviour.
Remember, there is always a reason why a child behaviours the way he does. The first step to helping your child manage his emotions is communicating and finding out the reasons why your child is acting out. Communication through your family is very important. As your child gets older, teach him to identify and manage his emotions.