I’ve been working with a couple of the past few weeks to try and determine the source of their three year old’s temper tantrums. In order to effectively eliminate the tantrums or decrease the frequency, we have to first of all discover the source.
We know one of the most common reasons children act out is to get attention. That’s always the first thing we look at. Are we physically there but not emotionally? Are we paying too much attention to an infant sibling and forgetting to acknowledge the first born? Are we spending too much time in front of a screen and spending very little time fully engaging with our child?
Another thing I always like to look at is the child’s routine. Especially with very young children, are they being fed small amounts of food, frequently? Are they getting enough sleep and down time? Are too many activities being crammed into the day and at the end of the day you’re dealing with a child who is over-stimulated?
Another very common reason for a tantrum is when a child kicks and screams to get what she/he wants and out of pure exhaustion, we give in. In that case we’re likely to get more because they’ve learned this is a way to get what they want.
We have a very different approach to parenting than a generation ago when parents were much less involved and things were very black and white. Also, we didn’t have a situation where in most households both parents worked outside the home. Today, we’re much more involved and many parents who are away from their children for long periods try and make up for their absence by being fully present every minute they’re with them. This can create a “As long as I’m with Mom and Dad I can get what I want, when I want and I’m in charge”. Exhausted parents can easily give in to demands because it’s easier. By doing so, in the long run, we send a message of entitlement. Children learn they have a right to demand anything they want. Of course that isn’t our intention when we allow ourselves to respond to every beck and call. However, when we choose to respond a certain way to our children, we always want to ask ourselves “What am I teaching? What message am I sending?” Make sure the message you’re sending is going to serve them in the long run. It is not in a child’s best interest when they’re in charge, and not the parents.