Why It’s Okay For Kids To Tantrum (Sometimes)

“If That Was My Kid…”

Before you became a parent, you probably walked through a shopping centre happily shopping away, sat in a park quietly reading your book, swam in the town pool enjoying cooling down on a hot day … and so on. And then it came … the wailing. It started softly, and then it got louder and louder. And no, I’m not talking about a banshee (which is said to be the sound of impending death) – but it’s pretty close. A kid, having a tantrum.

And you would shake your head in disgust; or you’d turn and walk the other way embarrassed for the parent; you’d offer unwanted advice like “if that was MY kid I would smack his bum”… and so on.

As a parent, your child having a tantrum is certainly one of the most embarrassing things that can happen. We often cringe, sometimes we cry. We all know at some point – it’s going to happen. They might be 18 months old, or they might be 13 years old. They are going to tantrum about something, at a time when it’s least appropriate. And it will hit you right in the core of your stomach, your heart and your soul. You’ll be freaking out – do people think you’re a bad parent? Do you simply walk away, do you yell, do you cry, do you laugh? There is so much to think about in those few seconds where you can see the tantrum escalating.

I have an 18 month old and 4 year old and they both have the occasional tantrum. Mr 18 months is much worse than Miss 4 – and we believe it’s simply because he has to vie for our attention more than she ever did.

The thing is … Tantrums in children are frowned upon. But what I don’t understand is why. And you might be wondering why I say that. Well … think about it like this.

Adults Tantrum And It's Okay

Adults Tantrum And It’s Okay

As an adult, when something upsets us, we cry. When something makes us angry, we might yell. When something REALLY frustrates us, we might throw things around.

So here is my question — why is it okay for adults to have “tantrums”, but it’s not okay for kids? I mean, as adults, we’re educated. We have been through the ropes and learnt a bit about life (or a lot). We might have seen the world, we might know a lot about particular things and we might even have a degree and career that helps us to be well informed. We’re smart, we have life experience, and we can communicate freely with a vocabulary that includes hundreds of thousands of words. In fact, there are currently over 200,000 words in the Oxford Dictionary (171,476 words in current use, and 47,156 obsolete words) – and that doesn’t even incorporate all the specialist terms that we might learn in life (such as medical terminology). And to be honest, most of us know what at least 50% of these are.

And yet, it’s okay for us to yell, cry, throw things; and so on, when something bothers us or when things are not going our way. Your average 18 month old can understand around 50 words, and has a vocabulary of 5 to 20 words. Your average 4 year old can understand and say between 4,000 and 6,000 words.  And yet, society expects them to NOT get angry, upset, frustrated when something happens that they don’t yet understand. And as parents, we get angry at them getting angry, or frustrated at them getting frustrated…

It’s Important To Keep Them Under Control

Obviously some kids go over the top. They learn that to get their way, they need to yell and scream and embarrass their parents in public – and voila – new toy, big chocolate bar, etc. If your child learns that they can get what they want from having a tantrum; they are going to become teenagers who think they are entitled – and who tantrum to get their own way (we’ve all met them).  It’s important that you become familiar with your child’s tantrums and WHY they have them. Sometimes, they are going to do it to get attention.

Why Should We Let Our Kids Have Tantrums?

So Why Should We Let Our Kids Have Tantrums?

Sometimes, kids have tantrums for the funniest reasons – they want square sandwiches, not triangle; their balloon burst because they grabbed it too tight and now they have no balloon; or you got them water in the blue cup, not the red one.

Sometimes your child is just tired or they might be over stimulated. As I write this my 18 month old (who was awake from midnight until 4.30am and then up again at 6am) is having a tantrum because he can’t fit in the washing basket, which is full of clothes…

Sometimes it will be the only way they know how to express themselves (like in an 18 month old who can’t speak yet).

And I think that sometimes, we just have to let them do it. And rather than judge parents who are suffering from the dreaded tanty-child when you’re out in public, offer them a knowing smile; or you could even offer to help!

I mean … think about it. When was the last time you got angry, upset or frustrated and did or said something you regret? Hello, tantrum.

Why is it okay for you, but not a child?

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