Why do children tantrum?
I had two of my granddaughters staying with me for the last few days and I watched their mood swings come and go like the flick of a light switch. I started to think how children mirror adults in so many ways. Like the adults, children get frustrated, stressed and often feel out of control of the situation that they are in and as a result, attempt to vent their feelings by throwing a fit or tantrum.
For me, I have learned that when I ignore the tantrums, they eventually dissolve, but that works best when I am alone with one child. There is power in numbers so if two or more children decide to express their anger or frustration at the same time - watch out chaos can follow. I have also discovered that if another adult is present, then the child has an audience and that is the perfect stage for their performance. Wow, and can they perform.
Tantrums range from simple whining and crying to loud screaming, hitting and even throwing of items. I have discovered that if I can do something to change their focus as I often say to adults, to shift gears, that shift is all that is needed to change the mood and help them to move onward. Children like to think they are in control; so giving them choices is a helpful tool. When they are part of the planning and the decision-making, they feel more connected. When they feel more connected, they feel loved and comfortable within the environment in which they are experiencing at that moment and when they feel comfortable, they are relaxed and content.
I know it is helpful to remember, whether we are speaking about children or adults, to pick and choose your battles and always be aware of the boundaries that are needed to maintain a happy and healthy environment. Like some adults, children need to be taught boundaries, that is, what is acceptable behavior and that which is not. No one has the right to injure or insult another just because you feel like it and likewise, we do not have the right to use force. I remember clearly about nine years ago when another grandchild was shopping with me and started demanding and creating a scene. My attempts to reason were not working, so I simply took her hand and returned to the car. The yelling and screaming continued for about 15 minutes and I simply sat there and let it continue until all of a
sudden it stopped. I didn't say a word, I simply allowed her to get it out of her system and when she did, she returned to being a pleasant and happy little girl. In all the years that followed, she never tried that approach on me again. I discovered that there are times when trying to reason doesn't work but I also discovered that when they are ready they can and do shift gears as they realize that in life there is a good and improper way to get what you are seeking. It is all part of the learning curve. When they learn to create a satisfactory outcome by their satisfactory behavior, it is very empowering.
Joan Marie Ambrose