Temper Tantrums and Conniption Fits in Children

A lot of parents believe that with threats, punishments, yelling and reprimands, their child will learn to behave.  Others believe that if you please all their child’s demands he/she will behave in a much happier and more mature way.  Nothing could be more wrong than this.  Authoritative or very permissive parental or teacher behavior just causes children to become intolerant, rebellious, angry, and very ill-tempered.

Temper Tantrums and Conniption Fits in ChildrenIf your child has a bad temper, it goes without saying that you must know how to manipulate the situation and in some way, take control of it.  One of the things that most influences a child to throw temper tantrums is if the parents or teachers indulge them or allow attitudes that they know they shouldn’t, and at the end of the day, they end up giving in to the child’s imposing demand.

When a child does not distinguish clear limits and the parents’s character in vague and confusing, the most likely thing to happen will be that the child will become demanding and capricious.  Parents that don’t know how to say no, and that have guilty characteristics in their personality (like mothers that work and feel guilty for leaving the child with someone else.  Or single mothers that don’t have a partner, and therefore feel guilty about it) generally tend to want to compensate for what they can’t give the child, like time or a paternal or maternal figure, by giving the child what he/she wants.

Tantrums and Conniption: Lack of clear limits

A lot of mothers or father are not conscious of the fact that they don’t place clear limits, until someone points it out to them.  A lot of parents are frequently very demanding and place severe and exaggerated punishments on their children, that later, they can’t follow through with.  They then have to give in or change the punishment which teaches the child that the limit or the parent’s word doesn’t hold much value.  For example, some parents that frequently try to educate their child by saying “You’re not going to watch TV for a month because you hit your brother”.  But after just a day or two, parent considers softening or removing the punishment, which teaches the child that the parent’s word is not firm.

On the other hand, there are parents that say: “I’m not going to buy you that soda because it’s harmful”.  They say it strong and convinced.  But if the child doesn’t like the parent’s decision (which is what usually happens) they begin with insistent requests.  If the parent doesn’t know how to hold up their word and gives in, the child will have later learned that they can manipulate the parent in another way.

If the child has learned that the parent’s character is permissive and indulgent, their temper tantrums will slowly increase, with the intent of getting what they want.

What to do with a temperamental child?

The first thing to do is to avoid all possible threats, hitting, and screaming.  This only shows that the parent has lost complete control of the situation, and encourages the child to become even more rebellious and ill-tempered.  They may even copy the parent’s aggressiveness and violence.

The most recommendable thing for the parent to do is to keep their word strong, even if beforehand they had shown little character.  It’s best to explain to the child in a very firm and serene way that you have made a decision, and that’s how it will be.  Especially if the child is used to throwing fits and getting his/her way.  For example: “I know that I’ve given in before, but this time will not be the same.  You can kick and scream all you like, but I’m not going to buy it for you”. 

Another thing to do is to not punish the child, but to make them responsible for their actions, coming to realistic and non-exaggerated agreements with him/her.  For example: “If you hit your brother again, then you will have decided not to watch your favorite TV show tonight”.  If the child breaks the agreement, don’t speak to him strongly, nor reprimand nor punish.  Just explain to them that they themselves broke the agreement and have decided not to enjoy their TV show.

You must be firm without giving into the child’s possible tantrums.  Explain to them that they decided not to watch the show, and the adult is only respecting the agreement.  In this way the child becomes more mature and responsible for their actions, and will slowly begin to understand that even though they throw fits and protest, the parent will not give in.

This firm (not hard), calm, and secure character is what will help the child reduce their tantrums and fits, and begin to mature their emotional world.

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