Do your younger siblings have temper tantrums? Or do you maybe remember your own fits of screaming, crying, kicking, and whining that drove your parents—and any unlucky bystanders—up the wall? No aspect of human experience seems to be unworthy of study by psychologists, and temper tantrums are no exception. A new study of these toddler tempests indicates that tantrums follow patterns and that these patterns give caregivers opportunities to calm the storm. The findings can also help parents distinguish between normal upsets and those that might indicate a serious illness.
Before they could analyze the tantrums, the researchers had to collect data. To do so, they recorded the sounds of more than 100 temper tantrums by attaching wireless recording devices to toddlers’ onesies. If a child had a meltdown during the session, every ear-melting moment was recorded. The researchers then analyzed the sounds. One of the study’s findings indicates that anger, with its screams and thrashing limbs, and sadness, evidenced by whining and whimpering, occur throughout the tantrum. Child development specialists had thought that temper tantrums start with anger and devolve into sadness. There are peaks in the anger, though, and getting past the peaks to the lingering sadness offers a chance to calm the child.
Probably the most useful aspect of the study is a list of recommendations for dealing with temper tantrums. Here are five not-that-easy-to-follow basic rules:
1. Just wait it out. Get the child to a quieter place where she won’t disturb others.
2. Don’t try to coax the child into better behavior, threaten, bribe, or question. The child is not listening to even your most eloquent reasoning.
3. Offer comfort. Once the child is past the peaks of anger, he will want to be comforted.
4. Find the humor in the situation. Well, you can try.
5. Don’t take tantrums as a personal failure. They happen in every family.
Image credit: © Getty Images
- Temper Tantrums: What Your Toddler Is Trying to Tell You (and How You Can Help)
Read about the temper tantrum study on this “Moments of Motherhood” blog.
(Source: Yahoo! Shine, December 6, 2011)
- What’s Behind a Temper Tantrum? Scientists Deconstruct the Screams
Listen to the Morning Edition story on science of temper tantrums; includes “Anatomy of a Tantrum” video.
(Source: NPR, December 5, 2011)
- What Is a Tantrum?
Review basic information on tantrum behaviors at this British website for parents.
(Source: Babycentre; accessed December 30, 2011)
Read what Sigmund Freud and others have said about tantrums, and find additional links.
(Source: Wikipedia; accessed December 30, 2011)