Managing Temper Tantrums
DO YOU HAVE PROBLEMS WITH TEMPER TANTRUMS?
Do you lose your temper when your child has to be told for the fifth time to pick up his shoes and socks from the middle of the living room floor?
Do you lose your temper when your child argues with you about some small chore you ask her to do?
I bet you thought this article was about children's temper tantrums. Well, you're right, but don't you have temper tantrums too? Do you yell and scream, call the child names, curse, throw things, hit things, cry, and say things you later regret?
WHAT CAUSES THESE TEMPER OUTBURSTS? Frustration, not getting what you want (child's compliance), unrealistic expectations that don't get met, extra work, effort, resentment that children or other adults don't respect you or challenge your authority, a lack of effective skills to influence others' behavior, feelings of inadequacy, feelings of hurt, a history of difficulties with a child/adult and hopelessness that it will change.
WHAT MAINTAINS THIS PATTERN OF TEMPER OUTBURSTS? You get rewarded for expressing the temper outburst because the child does finally comply with your command or do what you expect of him/her. This has taught you that if you yell at your child, express a contorted, ugly face, shake your finger, threaten torture and revenge, your child will then do what you want. So you tend to use this approach more and more often and more quickly.
Well, the same principles I have described for you hold true for your child.
WHY DO CHILDREN HAVE TEMPER TANTRUMS?
1. Their anger is triggered by frustration, not getting what they want, needing to control their lives, having immediate gratification, thinking they should have what others have.
2. They have not learned appropriate, effective skills for accomplishing their goals.
3. They have learned from parents who model temper outbursts.
4. They usually get a pay off for exhibiting temper outbursts: they avoid having to do an unpleasant activity even if for a few minutes or they get what they wanted and demanded.
5. They punish parents for making them do what they don't want to do. When parents are punished, they tend to avoid giving commands to the child.
HOW CAN WE EFFECTIVELY DEAL WITH TEMPER TANTRUMS?
1. First try ignoring the behavior. When the child begins a temper outburst, stop communicating and paying attention to the child. Tell the child that when he/she regains composure, you will talk to him.
2. Do not give the child what he wants and what has triggered the temper outburst. If you do, it will reward him for the temper. You must be consistent, and never give in to the child, ever. Inconsistency in this regard encourages persistence by the child.
3. If the temper tantrum is in response to a command, give the child a time out, take away a privilege.
4. Teach the child how to express anger appropriately.
5. Allow the child to express anger appropriately to you.
6. Do not model temper outbursts for your child to imitate.
7. Reward and praise your child for not having a temper outburst at times when he typically would. Catch him being good.
8. Monitor the child's activities and when you see frustration building, either remove the child from the activity or guide the child in how to cope with the frustration and anger.
9. Avoid random, inconsistent discipline. If you say a child can do something one time and not the next, he believes you are being unfair and overly restrictive, controlling, and making the decision for your own welfare and not his. This may cause anger and resentment.
10. Avoid power struggles. Instead of arguing with the child over a rule or command, repeat the command and state the consequence of not following the rule or command. Then follow through.
11. Teach anger management skills. Deep breathing, robot rag doll, counting, walk away, vigorous exercise, expressing feelings verbally to self and by self.
12. Reward the child in a structured way with a behavior chart for not engaging in temper outbursts.