Parenting Quick Tips: How to Handle Temper Tantrums
Temper tantrums are a normal part of child development, but some kids have more frequent and severe tantrums than others. If you have a child who frequently throws temper tantrums, there is something you can do to help reduce their frequency: actively ignore them.
For children, attention (especially from parents) is something highly desired. Whether the attention is positive or negative, kids are always looking to get the attention of their parents. If a child throws a tantrum, and a parent gives them attention because of it, then the attention actually increases the likelihood that the child will throw a tantrum in the future. It doesn't matter if the attention is negative.
Instead of giving them attention in the moment, the best thing parents can do if a child is throwing a temper tantrum is to ignore it (so long as the child is safe). Out in public? Try to remove the child from the situation if possible, then ignore them while they go about their tantrum. If they get physical or are at risk of hurting themselves, then get them into a safe area while trying to stay neutral.
By ignoring tantrums, they will typically get worse at first. That's because a child basically thinks "this has always worked before...why isn't it working now?....maybe it will work if I scream even louder." The key is to be strong and continue to ignore. If you give in and give the child attention (again, even if negative) after they escalate, then you are encouraging them to escalate again in the future.
If you remain consistent, then you should start to see decreases in tantrums. Ideally, you should also give them positive attention after they have calmed down, thanking them for controlling their emotions and being able to talk calmly. If you focus on giving positive attention for use of appropriate handling of emotions, then your kids will start to use them more often and you'll have a lot fewer headaches.
Again, the key is to remain strong and consistent. Actively ignore them while they are engaging in undesired behaviors, and give them a lot of attention when they are doing things the way you want them to. If they are doing something undesirable and you don't have time to potentially follow through with actively ignoring the behavior (e.g., you're heading out the door to an appointment), then don't bother trying to ignore the behavior and instead do what you need to in the situation. Again, if you start to ignore and they escalate, and then you are forced to give attention, it will reinforce the escalation.
Have questions about how this works? Want other parenting tips on certain subjects? Let me know in the comments!