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Temper tantrums can leave parents feeling powerless and shaken. As such, they are extremely memorable – a mother who could not tell you what she ate for lunch yesterday, will be able to recall in perfect and complete detail, the time, the place, the weather, and all the other facets of the traumatic scene, including the horrified stares of onlookers.
Occasional tantrums in a child's younger years are completely normal. That said, a parent's goals should include helping children find better ways of expressing anger than lashing out physically.
Punishment is not necessarily the answer to temper tantrums. In any case, it may be completely unnecessary, because most children naturally feel some remorse from within. The key thing is not to give-in to the child's demands just to curtail the scene – otherwise you will end-up training your child that temper tantrums get results! Standing firm is a start, but it's not enough by itself. You also need to show your child that you understand how powerful and frightening these feelings are, and be willing to talk about what happened when calm returns.
Children enraged in a temper tantrum typically feel helpless. Leaving your child alone in his room and closing the door, may only serve to increase his fear, because he knows that he can not control himself. For this reason, a "time-out" procedure is not always the best way of dealing with tantrums. Your job is to stand by the child, prevent him hurting himself or anybody else, rather than shutting him out or giving him a reason to feel abandoned.
During a temper tantrum, a child may hit, kick, or even bite. In the case of babies, they do these things completely by accident. That's because they are still learning to use their muscles, and are still discovering what their bodies are capable of doing. If your 18-month old kicks you because he wants a cookie and you won't give him one, he is probably doing that because he is unable to verbally express his anger. You need to let your children know, in clear, simple language, when their behavior is unacceptable: "That hurts me, and hurting people is not allowed."
While occasional bouts of temper are probably inevitable, you will need to use your judgment to decide whether these outbursts are too frequent. If your child isn't taught to control his temper, he will probably have trouble making friends later. For pre-school age children you can try the "time-out" procedure. When your child is agitated and close to losing control, giving him a few minutes alone in a quiet place, may be enough to allow him to cool off rather than boil over.
If you have more than one child, you also need to bear in mind that can the dynamics of the situation. Some children can punch or bite when they are provoked by older brothers or sisters, or when they feel left out of the bigger kids' games. If this happensin your family, you may need to give your child some special grown-up attention, as well as teach your older children to be mindful of younger one's feelings.
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