Handling Tantrums Begins by Knowing their Cause

Power struggles, learning disabilities and sensory needs are common causes for tantrums.

Power struggles, learning disabilities and sensory needs are common causes for tantrums.

by Rifka Schonfeld -

“No! I won’t put my shoes on,” Nathan yelled.

Penny sighed. “Nathan,” she said, “we talked about this before. You are five years old and you need to put your shoes on yourself.” She could tell this tantrum was going to be a long one.

“I can’t,” Nathan whined. “I don’t remember how.”

Penny knew this wasn’t true. But today, for some reason, her son didn’t want to cooperate.

“If you don’t know how to put your shoes on, then we can’t to go to your friend’s party.”

“Yes, I can. My teacher said Native Americans didn’t wear shoes and walked outside.”

With that, the full tantrum began. Nathan rolled around and banged his hands on the table. He yelled, “Mommy, I can’t put my shoes on,” and continued screaming.

Penny knew this wasn’t going to end soon, so she waited until Nathan tired himself out.

Every child, regardless of age or disposition, has an occasional tantrum, or “meltdown.” While their roots might differ, these fits often affect the whole family. But the way you respond can influence their recurrence and lasting effects. Before we discuss positive responses to meltdowns, let us first outline several types of outbursts that children might experience.

Homework Horrors

School aged children will occasionally feel overwhelmed and exhausted by their homework. They might throw their bags or rip pages of their notebooks. Alternatively, they might cry about how they cannot do their assignment. If these meltdowns occur every so often, this is normal and a symptom of our pressurized school systems. If these meltdowns happen consistently, then there is likely something larger at play.

What You Can Do:

Maintain a regular routine. If your child does homework at the same time and same place every day, he will be more likely to feel in control.

Make sure your child get his sleep. Children who don’t get enough sleep are less able to concentrate and thus more prone to being overwhelmed.

Get your child tested. If your child is struggling with work on his grade level, consider having him evaluated. He might be having meltdowns because of a learning disability.

Sensory Strife

Children with sensory processing disorder (SPD) can be easily over-stimulated. When they feel overwhelmed, their senses can go into overdrive, and they will respond by attacking what they feel is attacking them. This can mean they will scream or hit to make the sensory bombardment stop.

What You Can Do:

Remove offending stimuli. Pay attention to what triggers over-stimulation in your child and make an attempt to eliminate or reduce those stimuli.

Add positive stimuli. There are bound to be sensory experiences that your child appreciates and enjoys.

Remove guilt and shame. After a meltdown, your child will often feel guilty for having behaved that way. Be sure to remove accusations from your tone and conversation. Unlike children without SPD, a child with SPD cannot completely control his reactions.

Read more at When your Child has a Meltdown.

[Via Community Magazine]

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