Temper Tantrums

A child throwing a big temper tantrumIt was a glass breaking scream and it came from the front of the Blockbuster store.  I looked toward the direction the scream came from and saw a humiliated mom caving into her four year old little boy.  Unfortunately, when this mom took their rental to the counter she passed by a perfectly placed candy section.  Apparently the child did the logical thing … to him anyway.  He reached for the candy he wanted.  When the mom said, “No,” the child fell on the floor kicking and screaming. Broken and disappointed by not getting his way, the four-year-old did what he had been taught to do to get his way.  He had a temper tantrum!

Why do children have temper tantrums?   Initially children yell and scream when they don’t get their way because they are children.  The disappointment of hearing the word “No” is too overwhelming for a child.

We shouldn’t be surprised when a child throws a temper tantrum.  It’s an initial natural response to disappointment.  We should be surprised, however when a child continues to throw temper tantrums.  That means this child has learned that the temper tantrum is the way to get mom’s “No” turned into a “yes”.

Sure enough, the screaming won out.  After three “No’s” and an attempt to pick the child up, this exhausted mom caved in and said, “Okay, this time you can have the candy but next time when I say “No” I mean “No.”

I’m sure that little speech about “next” was for the people who were watching.  Next time … she assured a temper tantrum would take place the next time she said “No.”

When a temper tantrum is the vehicle a child can use to successfully get what he or she wants, it only reinforces this unwanted behavior.  To a child it just means, “Mom said ‘No’ but she can be convinced to say “Yes” if I get loud and wild enough.”

That mom might have gotten past the moment; but she set herself up to repeat that moment over and over.  The longer the temper tantrum works, the longer it will take to unravel that learning.

It’s called impulse control.  Part of the job of parenting is to deal with temper tantrums, and don’t give the child what he is trying to get.  Mom and dad must make their “Yes” mean yes and their “No” mean no! No outburst from the child should change a parent’s answer.   There are enough adults who have never been taught this lesson when they were children.  We see them every day on our highways.

Don’t cave into temper tantrums.  When you do you are only postponing and multiplying the problem.

Tomorrow: What could that mom have done to deal with her child’s temper tantrum?