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Alternative namesDisruptive or undesirable behavior in response to unmet needs or desires. Emotional outbursts when not allowed to do or have something that a child wants. Inability to control emotions due to frustration and difficulty expressing the particular need or desire.
Temper tantrums or "acting-out" behaviors are natural during early childhood development. As children learn to separate from their parents (that is, as they learn that they are separate beings), they have a normal and natural tendency to assert their independence. This desire for control often manifests as saying "no" often and having tantrums, which are compounded by the fact that the child may not have the vocabulary to adequately express his or her feelings.
Tantrums generally begin between the ages of 12 to 18 months, peak between 2 and 3 years, then decrease rapidly until age 4 after which they should be seldom seen. Being tired, hungry, or sick can make tantrums worse or more frequent. Make sure that your child eats and sleeps at his or her usual times. If your child no longer takes a nap, it is still important to have some quiet time. Lying down for fifteen to twenty minutes or resting with you while you read stories together at regular times of day can help prevent tantrums.
When your child has a temper tantrum, it is important that you remain calm. It helps to remember that tantrums are normal -- they are NOT your fault, you are NOT a bad parent, and your son or daughter is NOT a bad child. Shouting at or hitting your child will only make the situation worse. A quiet, peaceful response and atmosphere, without "giving in" or breaking the rule that you just set, will reduce stress and make both of you feel better. Remember that children imitate behavior. You can also try gentle distraction to activities that they enjoy or try making a funny face. If you are not at home during a tantrum, try to carry your child to a quiet place like the car or a rest room, keeping him or her safe until the tantrum has ended.
Other methods to try to prevent tantrums include:
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you call your pediatrician if:
Update Date: 1/12/2004Jacqueline A. Hart, M.D., Department of Internal Medicine, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Boston, Ma., and Senior Medical Editor, A.D.A.M., Inc.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT