Young children between the ages of 12 months and 4 years of age present a still immature emotional makeup. Since they have not developed good coping skills, they tend to lose control in some situations and are dominated mainly by their impulses; These urges often turn into tantrum attacks.
What is the role of a tantrum?
The tantrum, like all human actions, has a purpose; the function of this is the expression. Young children often want to express themselves, but it is very difficult for them. They are frustrated, and this frustration manifests as a tantrum; once they can express themselves in other ways and talk more, they will be less likely to have tantrums. By the age of 4 they usually decrease.
If we move to the theory of psychoanalysis, it is here – during the tantrum – that according to Freud, the Id of personality appears. It will always drive the child to satisfy his needs, it is his main objective. Since it is governed by the pleasure principle , it will always seek satisfaction and will avoid and react to what causes displeasure. Although from the age of 3 the ego begins to develop, the child may still not understand why he cannot achieve all his desires and for him, not getting what he is looking for may be the worst thing that happens to him, that is where his fury arises and uncontrollable anguish.
Every tantrum a child has is the result of not getting what they want. Children between 12 and 24 months often have tantrums that come from the need to communicate a need: hunger, a diaper change, a toy they cannot reach, a need for affection, etc. By the time they are 3 or 4 years old, children will have become more autonomous and aware of their needs and desires, therefore they will try to assert themselves more and demonstrate their authority.
Although tantrums can be frustrating for parents, it must be recognized that they are also frustrating for the child. He is not proud of losing control and may even be ashamed of what happened.
Although it can sometimes be very difficult to get a child out of a tantrum, we must understand that it will not last all day. But it can also be solved with a little patience and persistence on the part of parents , teachers, or caregivers. There are some discipline strategies that can help a child realize that no matter what happens, throwing a tantrum / tantrum will not be of much help.
Why do tantrums happen?
When the child has a tantrum, parents or caregivers should take time to examine the underlying reason for the tantrum. Children have tantrums for two main reasons: the inability to control their emotions or an attempt to control the situation.
The human brain is not fully developed until approximately 25 years of age; the last part that develops is the frontal lobe, the part of abstract thinking. That part is what helps the individual to think before acting and is where problem solving is achieved.
Adolescents and young adults sometimes make impulsive and mindless decisions because this part of the brain (frontal lobe) is not yet fully developed. They do not think before acting. The same happens in children, since they do not have a yet developed brain structure, they tend to get carried away by their impulses, and tantrums are one of them.
When something happens that bothers them, even when it is small, their limbic system – which controls emotions – is activated and manifests itself in emotions or impulses. At that time there is no thinking or problem solving in the limbic system, since the frontal lobe has not yet developed.
Children sometimes struggle to emotionally control what happens to them and show their frustration through their behavior. A child who is unsure of how to deal with uncomfortable emotions such as anger, sadness, and disappointment may be an easy target for the It , which will provoke a reaction of uncontrolled behavior. Yelling, throwing himself on the ground, kicking or even hitting is his way of saying, “Help me, I’m out of control.”
Characteristic signs of a tantrum
Whatever the trigger for a tantrum, it will likely end in an emotional outburst. Some mental health professionals believe that children with these frequent emotional outbursts lack certain skills that would help them better handle situations that cause frustration, anxiety, or anger. A tantrum can include characteristic signs that include:
- Lack of impulse control
- Drop, crawl, or kick
- Scream desperately
- Throw objects
- Hitting yourself or trying to hit others
- Lack of ability to solve problems
- Refusal to negotiate
- Lack of communication with adults
- Inability to self-calm
How to prevent and treat tantrums?
Although it may not seem like it, tantrums are easy to prevent and to treat. It is only enough to arm yourself with patience, let the child release his emotions and after the moment of crisis sit down and talk with them. Usually they tend to ask them questions about why they are crying, what they want or why they behave like this; But in the middle of a tantrum these questions instead of calming them will make them lose more control.
The problem when tantrums occur is that in children it is not working in the logical part of their brain , because it is not yet developed. They cannot answer our questions because they are too emotionally flooded to force themselves to think logically.
Mark a game routine
Setting aside regular playtime with your preschooler can help him feel better about himself. Before the game it is important to let him take the initiative when choosing the activity, but you also have to show him that the other people (in this case the parent or caregiver) will also have their turn to choose a game. That shared experience will give the child a better basis for self-calming the next time he gets angry and will show him that he is not the only one with decision-making power.
Praise good behaviors
It’s important not to miss out on opportunities to point out good behaviors, even to the little ones. If you receive praise when you behave in a good way, you will understand that not only will you get your parents’ attention by misbehaving or throwing a tantrum, but you will also receive positive attention when you display a desired behavior; noticing this is more likely to repeat it again.
If a child is thought to be throwing a tantrum, find something to distract him immediately. This could be something that is happening at the moment or something that is seen through the window, for example, you could say: “Look, a bird!” In a tone that sounds like you are genuinely surprised, this will get your child’s attention and for the moment they will forget their anger.
Teach you ways to relax
You can be taught healthy techniques to handle frustration at the time of the tantrum, for example: take deep breaths, drink a glass of water, etc. It is also important that after the tantrum, you talk to the child, ask him why he reacted, and explain that this is not the right way to achieve your goals. Children need to see and hear that it is okay to make mistakes sometimes and that not everything can always be achieved.
Take away your attention
If before a tantrum the parent or caregiver tries to calm the child and he responds in a negative way and worsens, it is important that he not try to calm him again. Ignoring him is the key , unless he is physically endangering himself or others. By taking their attention away, you will not reinforce their undesirable behavior. It is only necessary to intervene if you start hitting, kicking, biting, throwing things during the crisis. By not intervening, he is given the opportunity to learn to calm himself and may also find that this behavior does not attract attention.
Find the cause
As a final point, tantrums can be prevented by knowing what causes them. For example, if your child is more likely to have a tantrum when he is not napping or is tired, it is necessary to make napping a priority; If the time to go to kindergarten or preschool turns into the time of the tantrum, methods can be implemented such as: explaining to the child that he will be there for only a while, that he will be able to play with his classmates, telling him the activity they will do when he returns or who they will visit.
How to help the child deal with frustration?
The first step in helping a child deal with frustration is to allow him to become frustrated and to learn to solve his problems on his own. When the frustration becomes very intense and triggers greater emotions such as anger, deep anguish and emotional instability, it is possible to begin to intervene so that this does not become frequent and constructive results are achieved for the emotional health of the child.
It is important to identify the situations that trigger that emotion. Once frustrating situations have been identified and steps taken to avoid them, you are ready to prepare your child to deal with the frustrations that are part of life. If you know your child is likely to be frustrated, tell him.
Teach him to recognize moments of frustration
The basic approach to helping a child deal with difficult emotions is to help them develop the ability to observe themselves while in the midst of that emotion and to help them make conscious decisions about their behavior and how they express their feelings.
Most kids struggling with managing frustration didn’t see the signs before their behavior was out of control. The best way to help them recognize your reaction is by talking about the physical signs they are experiencing. For example: telling them that their gaze changes, they frown, tense, purse their lips, etc. These are some of the signs that can apply to most children.
Help you deal with strong emotions
Anger is an emotion that can protect us from the most vulnerable underlying feelings of pain, humiliation, self-destruction, and sadness. Such emotion is often a way to avoid showing vulnerability when it does not feel safe to reveal or express softer emotions. This conversion to anger is usually an automatic and unconscious process, but it can become conscious, and steps can be taken to prevent it from becoming destructive to the child’s mental health.
It is important to help a child understand the underlying feelings behind anger and teach him to address those feelings rather than react to anger . However, to achieve this, you must first control the reactions that parents or caregivers have to this emotion, as it is useless to explain to them if it is not acted on properly. The urge to defend or defend aggressively should also be avoided.
Hello Readers, I am Nikki Bella a Psychology student. I have always been concerned about human behavior and the mental processes that lead us to act and think the way we do. My collaboration as an editor in the psychology area of Well Being Pole has allowed me to investigate further and expand my knowledge in the field of mental health; I have also acquired great knowledge about physical health and well-being, two fundamental bases that are directly related and are part of all mental health.