Every Tantrum Has A Rational Explanation (or does it?)
Has your child hit the terrible twos, are they a threenager in the throes of training, or perhaps your child has stepped over the toddler-threshold and hit the age of “Awesome-Foursome”. Whatever status your child falls under, you’ve no doubt been pulling your hair out for at least a few months, if not years, trying to come to terms with tantrums.
Completely Rational Reasons
Communication. Between the ages of 1 and 3 is probably the worst for tantrums. Why? Because kids are going through so much learning at this age, yet they can’t talk properly to communicate what’s wrong – so they scream, cry, hit, bite, and so on. Until you finally get the point (or until they are too tired to care anymore). They might be feeling scared about something, angry or worried – and they only way they can communicate that is to cry and yell.
Attention. I find that my kids get more tantrum-y when I’m sitting on my computer doing work, or trying to watch a show on TV that I like (which rarely happens). I can be sitting in the same room as them for 3 hours, watching them play or trying to join in – and they want nothing to do with me. Then the minute I leave the room to go and do something for myself – they follow me and start fighting or whinging. Every time.
Tired. This is the big one, of course. From about 4pm until bed time, my kids are a mess. For around 90% of that time, they are fighting, crying over nothing, throwing things. It’s obvious they are tired, and we learn this from the moment our kids are born – when they get tired, they scream. And it becomes the worst part of the day as a parent … no matter what age they might be.
Not So Rational Reasons
And of course there are the not-so-rational reasons your child might tantrum. Here are some of the reasons my son has had a tantrum in the past few days, just as an example (and you will note many of these are food-related, because apparently he lives for food):
- He took his nappy off, but it got stuck halfway down his legs
- He couldn’t take his nappy off, because his pants were on
- He wanted a lollypop for breakfast
- He dropped his toast on the ground
- He picked his toast up to eat it and it had a bit of dirt on it
- He collected rocks from the garden but couldn’t carry them all in his hand
- He threw the rocks and then didn’t have any more rocks
- He didn’t want me to change his nappy
- He wanted me to change his nappy
- He ate a whole punnet of blueberries and there were none left
- He ate a whole punnet of raspberries and there were none left
- He didn’t want strawberries
- He ate all his apple (including the core) and there was none left
- He didn’t want an apple
- He wanted to eat raw potato
- He wanted a fork
- He threw his fork on the ground and then couldn’t reach it for dinner
- He didn’t want any more spaghetti
- I took his spaghetti away
- His water bottle was empty
- His water bottle was too full and he spilt it on his shirt
- He wanted a bath
- He didn’t want a bath
- He didn’t want a shower (then got in the shower anyway)
- His shoe fell off because he was practicing his new skill – jumping
- He threw his show into the garden in anger… then his shoe was in the garden and not on his foot
- TV was turned off and he wanted to watch Moana (his latest obsession)
- Moana DVD stopped
- Moana DVD started but it was a girl singing, not the actual movie
- His sister was singing Moana songs louder than him
And you get the picture.
How To Respond
There are a number of ways in which you can respond to a temper tantrum.
One of the most common is to yell, but this isn’t doing anyone any favours – and it certainly isn’t teaching your child that they shouldn’t yell to get their way! Some parents might smack their child, which isn’t actually teaching them a good lesson either (but it works for some kids). Others might send their child for time out (which I find is effective with one of my children).
Some of us laugh – and I certainly do this on occasion. Mostly because the reason for the tantrum is actually quite funny sometimes and I just can’t help myself. We might sit down and try to talk to our child to see if they can tell us what the problem is (depending on their age, of course).
Or probably my most favoured option is to just walk away and leave them to it. They will eventually calm down (it might be 2 minutes, or it might be 15), but if you’re not giving them attention their tantrum has failed and eventually they will realise that.