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Ahh! My Child is Having a Tantrum: Helping Your Child Manage Big Emotions : Part 1

"Ahhhh! My child's tantrums are out of control" this is usually the state of mind parents and caretakers are in when they reach out to me for help. It's no mystery that temper tantrums can drive adults crazy, especially when they lead to embarrassing moments, judgemental stares, and unwelcome advice.

Surprisingly, as children get older, tantrums don't stop! In adolescents, these behaviors shift in form ranging from indifference, anger, and frustration. But all hope isn't lost; just because your child has a tantrum doesn't mean you're doing something wrong. Big emotions are a normal part of a child's development. In this blog post, I'm answering FAQs that I receive from parents and caregivers about navigating your child's tantrums.

What is a tantrum?

At its core, a tantrum is a difficulty in emotion regulation resulting in behaviors such as crying, yelling, or being really stubborn. On the opposite end of the spectrum, but still considered a tantrum, is completely withdrawing. Depending on the child, the Big Emotions being displayed will look different.

Is my child's behavior developmentally appropriate?

Tantrums are usually a normal part of a child's development. As a child psychologist, before I can answer this question, I have parents and caregivers observe the ABCs of emotions. We go into the ABCs of behavior in detail on this week's episode; however, I'll give you the bird's eye view here:

A- Antecedent, or the event preceding the tantrum.

B- Behavior, what exactly is your child doing during their Big Emotion?

C- Consequence, the consequence is exactly what happens after that, Big Emotion has occurred.

What can I do to minimize tantrums?

With time, age, and emotional development, these outbursts should subside. In the meantime, I suggest parents and caregivers practice patience and keep their reactions consistent! Other strategies that have been proven effective for families I've worked with are:

  • Differential social attention is also known as "ignoring the behavior."

  • During meltdowns, keep your reactions prompt and brief.

  • Make it a point to notice opposite types of behavior.

Big Emotions come in many shapes and range from outbursts to silent withdrawal. Once you understand what's causing your child's tantrums, you and a mental health provider can begin to develop strategies for helping your child navigate these emotions.


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