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So you're out with the family and your child starts screaming, crying or whining out of the blue. What's going on? Why is your child being so moody? Many parents feel confused and frustrated with such situations that they start considering giving up family outings all together.
Such child behaviors are what we call "temper tantrums" and are very common in children aged 1-3 years. When a child throws a tantrum, it is simply because he/she is unable to communicate current needs or wants in words – this is mainly due to limited vocabulary and poor articulation at this age.
As your child begins to use language more proficiently, he/she outgrows throwing tantrums – especially when out in public – and instead uses words to express needs. So how can you deal with your child's tantrums until he/she outgrows it?
Here's our list of tantrum do's and don't:
Do not shout: Shouting at your child never makes it better. The more you shout, the more likely your child will scream and kick and will think of it is an acceptable behavior.
Do keep calm: Keeping your calm during a tantrum is important. Do not resort to disciplinary beating – as violence is never effective with a child.
Do not leave room: Staying in the room when your child is throwing a tantrum is critical. Leaving the room will only make him/her feel abandoned or more frustrated.
Do not give in: No matter how much your child kicks or screams, you must not give in to his/her demands. It teaches your child that the only way to get something is communicate it calmly.
Do give a timeout: If your child's tantrum becomes more violent – usually inflicting harm on surrounding people and environment, it's time for a timeout. Carry your child and take him to a quiet spot, and explain to him/her why he's in this spot such as "You're here because you hit your brother"
Do communicate: Once your child stops screaming and kicking, acknowledge his/her frustration. Explain to them in a quiet, firm voice that you understand their frustration but that does not give them the right to scream.
Do avoid tantrum causes: If your child throws tantrums when he/she is sleepy, make sure you're at home by the usual bedtime. If he/she is hungry around this hour, make sure to pack snacks on the roads. Avoid causes of such tantrums to limit bad behavior when outdoors.
Do notice any patterns: Has your child been throwing frequent tantrums recently? If so, what has changed in your household? Always remember that children are negatively affected if parents are fighting or general sense of safety is jeopardized. Avoid fighting in front of your child.
Do talk to your child's pediatrician: If your child holds his/her breath during a tantrum, talk to your pediatrician to rule out any physical causes.
For more child behavior tips, check out our Child Behavior section.