The Dreaded Temper Tantrum

I imagine most parents have had the pleasure of experiencing an all out, unhinged, ear-piercing case of hysteria (aka temper tantrum) from their little Angel. In public, with all eyes on the situation, it it becomes incredibly embarrassing!

I had such such a situation recently. At our local supermarket, my 3 year old went from calm and helpful to deranged, and incommunicable in 3 seconds flat! My usual approach is to ignore said tantrum, thus not fanning the flames so as to let it fizzle out. In this particular case however, he had planted himself in front of my buggy and with food isles surrounding me I was well and truly trapped. I’m proud to say I kept my cool!

Soon enough, a small crowd of well meaning old dears encircled me. They congratulated me on my calm demeanour (skin deep I assure you) and offered anecdotes of their own grandchildren, who were also “nightmares”! Finally as one woman had Santa Clause’s phone number, I thankfully gained enough leverage to leave the store! On an emotional walk home, the real root of the problem began to surface….. Hurt feelings from an unkind comment at play school. My heart broke in that instance, and I suddenly realised that this is going to be a more and more commonplace predicament of parenthood. We can never truly protect our children from a cruel and uncaring ( for the most part) world….

I diverge….. Back to temper tantrums!

Parents and indeed onlookers often view temper tantrums as intentional and manipulative. In the past, the term “brat ” was bandied around fairly frequently. Recent research however, has shown that it is much less voluntary than previously realized. However, that is not to say that there isn’t an element of learned behavior to it!

Children struggling with serious temper problems aren’t consciously calculating throwing tantrums, but they may have learned, through reinforcement from adults, that tantrums will get results!

“There’s no question that children who haven’t outgrown tantrums do have lagging skills in emotional regulation,” says Dr. Lopes, “but then I think that weakness is maintained and exacerbated by conditioned learning.”

Hia explanation highlights the fact that when a child encounters a problem and doesn’t know how else to handle it, they may resorts to tantrums. The child may well learn that, over time, this helps them get their way. “It becomes a vicious cycle,” says Dr. Lopes, “because instead of honing and practicing the adaptive skills that kids normally learn to solve problems collaboratively, these kids are learning maladaptive responses when they get frustrated. And by continuing to practice those skills, they are strengthening these behaviors over time and using them in a greater number of situations.”

WHAT CAN I DO?

Patience, patience and more patience. When a child looses control, it is actually a very frightening experience for them. If a parent or caregiver then looses control and shouts or threatens, it just exacerbates the situation. I certainly wouldn’t give into the child’s demands, thus enforcing the idea that tantrums get positive results. As there is no reasoning with them either I think it is best to calmly wait it out, and follow up with a little chat and lots of snuggles!

As adults, we are not immune to loss of control and angry outbursts. Some are more prone then others and although it is normal enough, it is rarely considered acceptable.

Interestingly, in the case of a child, tantrums are somehow seen as ‘red flag’ behaviour, in spite of the fact their brains aren’t yet wired or programmed  in the same  way that an adult’s is.

“There are two types of tantrum,” says psychologist Anna Hamer.

1. The most common tantrum for toddlers and pre-schoolers, is about power and control (eg. It has started raining and you try to leave the playground much to your child’s despair!)

2. In older children, they usually have a meltdown because they are overcome with emotion – anger, frustration, sadness – and do not yet have the biological or psychological tools to deal with it yet.
When a child becomes emotionally overloaded, they go into what’s known as the limbic brain, also known as the ‘hot’ brain because it’s the part that deals with emotions,” continues Anna. “It’s impossible to think logically when this happens – they’re literally out of their minds, by which we mean the ‘thinking’ prefrontal cortex, or rational brain. This is why it’s absolutely impossible to reason with a child who is in the grip of a tantrum. And if your child is hungry or tired, it exacerbates the situation – think about how you react to potential trigger situations in a low blood sugar moment or after several nights of broken sleep.”

WHEN SHOULD I WORRY?

It is important to note that temper tantrums may also the early signal of mental health problems. Here is a list of the key warning signs:

  1. Aggression toward caregivers, objects, or both. If this happened more than half the time in the last 10 to 20 tantrums, it may signal disruptive disorders. …
  2. Self-injury. …
  3. Frequent tantrums. …
  4. Very long tantrums. …
  5. Inability to calm oneself after a tantrum.

Always talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about your little one. From talking with friends and acquaintances who have struggled with a wide variety of everything from anxiety to a whole spectrum of levels on the autistic scale. The earlier that children are diagnosed, the better their long term prognosis.

Let me reiterate by saying that most temper tantrums are stressful but completely normal! I’m just covering all the bases here!

As always , I would love if people could share their thoughts and experiences below! I’d be delighted to hear from you

Thanks for reading, Sara X

Three Kids, Three and Under : SLEEP TRAINING

Having a couple boys, age 3 and almost 1 I feel I’ve got it down! ie…the sharing of time and attention and with a routine that works! (most days!!!) It was so much easier then I thought it would be (AGAIN… MOST DAYS!)… So, when a friend asked me to take care of her 1 year old a couple of days a week I said YES! Surely 3 isn’t that much different then 2? Let me tell you, its full on but it CAN be easy! If I could give any advice, it is that a steady routine is paramount!!! Children crave routine and familiarity. It lets them feel secure in a world in which they have little control!

There are a few hurdles on the way to and even during the right routine for you. For me, the first hurdle was naptime! A well rested baby is a happy baby!

Naptime:

This was my main worry and first problem to solve! Both babies were used to getting rocked to sleep! The very first nap on day one I held a baby in each arm and rock them to sleep!!!!! It worked but suffering with a bad back already, I immediately realised that this was not a sound plan day to day!

Having sleep trained my own eldest with immense success, I determined that this was the only sustainable method by which this was all going to work! I spoke to a few people running and working in crèches to get some tips. I mean, do you ever wonder how crèches manage to sleep a group of babies in one room? Even babies used to being rocked at home will lay down and go straight to sleep in crèche!!!!! What kind of wizardry is this!!!????

Its all about having a solid routine. Baby knows where they are and what is going to happen next. I was advised that when dealing with multiple children, there will be regular testing of boundaries and that it is so important to be consistent and kind but firm. I have detailed my method but it can be adjusted to meet the needs of other families.

The method:

1. Ensure baby is fed, warm enough but not too hot, has a dry clean nappy.

2. Medicine for teething, baby vicks/ snuffle baby for cold etc.. should be given if necessary, to ensure baby is comfortable as possible.

3. Make sure room is dark and warm. I also have a lullaby-music projector which automatically stops playing after half an hour.

4. Establish a calm pre-nap and bedtime routine. This can involve maybe a bottle, nappy change and story.

5. Put baby down sleepy BUT AWAKE!

6. After 3 minutes, check baby. Just pat their back gently and walk out. DO NOT PICK UP!

7. Repeat at 5, 7, 10, 15, 20 minutes

These times are what I use but can be adjusted. A lot of parents just do every 10 minutes. The idea is that the baby knows that they are in bed for duration of sleep time but they are reassured that there is always someone is nearby, so they feel safe and secure.

Some parents find that they upset the baby further by doing checks and opt for the full “cry it out” method. A lot of parents feel uncomfortable with this but often it yields very quick results. There is another method where the parent sits on a chair in the room and day by day moves it slowly out of the room.

Each family should choose what works for them.

Regardless of the method, lots of cuddles before and after are highly recommended !!!!

The benefits of sleep training:

Learning the skill of self soothing is incredibly important for a child.

So what is it?….

Self-soothing is the process of a child learning how to calm themselves down when they are put into their cot or when they wake up in the middle of the night. They learn how to fall back sleep which means more sleep for everyone involved . It is known as “self”-soothing because it is achieved by the child themselves, without the help of parents.

Self soothing is a life skill which will bring unbelievable comfort and confidence to the growing child. Studies have in fact linked this skill with lower anxiety and depression levels throughout life.

Sleep deprivation has negative impacts on childhood development. It also has a severe impact on a parents ability to cope and has a devastating impact on parents with postnatal depression!

During the day, the benefits to both the child and adult in charge are numerous.

The baby will have a nap of far superior length and quality when the routine is in place. And parent/carer can catch up on housework or even write a Blog!!!!!

For older children, a different approach is required. I found a lovely article here that I would recommend reading.

Tips from wise mothers:

Make different (different room, a small amount of daylight during day) for nap time and bed time so that baby will know that if they wake after an hour at night, it’s not time to get up!

It’s important that you stick to your guns! Now obviously, there will be time when baby will nap in buggy or car or someone else’s home. That is OK! BUT, when in the home they know where they will sleep. As I said, children and babies crave routine. When they know what is going to happen next and they get comfortable with a routine, anxiety and stress for baby is much lower!

Just a little side note:

This blog is simply detailing the way that I have found, that is most suited to our needs. I’ve given some background as to why I feel confident in my decisions. I am aware however, that every family is different and what works for one child may not be the solution for another. There are multiple ways of doing things and I respect for any loving parents prerogative to do what they deem best for their precious child!

As I go along I will update how things are going. What works, what doesn’t and any tricks I pick up!

Thanks for reading,

Sara X