Tantrums include a range of behaviours from screaming, whining, kicking or sulking. These behaviors are most characteristic of children 1-3 years of age, when children have low emotional control and are not yet able to engage in more complex forms of argument.
As a parent, you've wondered - what causes tantrums? And why are tantrums more common in toddlers?
There is a scientific explanation for this. Inside our brain, the prefrontal cortex, which is a tiny blob of gray matter, regulates our emotions and controls social behavior. It usually begins to mature at the age of 4. During this time, children are acquiring languages, which are a critical element for social competence. As children develop their language skills, they are able to communicate and regulate their emotions.
The second reason is stress, which causes the release of cortisol in our body that increases our blood pressure and heightens our sense of anxiety. Now, multiply this anxiety several-fold with the noise and light pollution and the pace of life our children have to contend with today. Someone wise has called this stressful combination ‘tantrum juice’. What you get as a result of all these complex situations are episodes of screaming and crying, which happen, more often than not, in public places.
Here are some simple pointers to bear in mind when dealing with your child's tantrums:
2. Assess the external circumstances to understand the reason(s) for this behavior. Could it be a lack of sleep, or the child coming down with an infection, etc?
3. Do not lose your temper or raise your voice.
4. Always hold your ground and remain consistent in your response. Children pick up behavior patterns very promptly.
5. Try journaling a meltdown with your child after it has happened. Write down, in your child's words, what caused the tantrum, her feelings before and during the situation. Also note down how the issue was resolved.
Most importantly, remain calm and consistent during these times. This, of course, is easier said than done. However, if you relent or lose your temper, it will only accentuate the problem and the situations will get more frequent and complex with time. A consistent and firm approach that is respectful of the child will go a long way in making these situations far easier, as you go along your journey of parenthood.
More parenting tips in our e-guide Parenting 101.