Temper Tantrums in 2-5 Year Olds
A realistic fact of family life is that children can push our frustration buttons. We like to divide temper tantrums into two categories. The first category is manipulation temper tantrums. This is where a child uses obnoxious behavior in hopes of getting his way. The second category is frustration temper tantrums. This is when a child gets frustrated trying to put on her shoe, throws the shoe against the wall, and screams. Or sometimes the child works himself into a snit and blurts out, “I hate you Mommy…” Here’s some temper tantrum-taming tips we learned with our own children and from parents in our practice:
Set the ground rules
Let your child know right away that you don’t listen to temper tantrum-speak. When he yells or screams, simply say, “Give Mommy your nice voice…” or go into another room while saying, “When you can talk to Mommy in your nice voice, then we’ll play…” Once children realize that their temper tantrums get them nowhere, this behavior will self-destruct.
When the little volcano erupts, instead of letting your child push your anger buttons and blowing off steam yourself, immediately ask yourself, “If I were (name) how would I want my mother/father to act?” It’s amazing how this sensitivity tool will prompt you to nearly always make an appropriate response. That’s because your child who is out of control needs you to respond like an adult who is in control.
Time-out the temper tantrum
If your child’s temper tantrums occur in a public place, such as a supermarket, simply take him out to the car to listen to soothing music and your calming words until he settles. Again, he’s getting two messages: temper tantrums get him nowhere and, secondly, you will help him through it. One of our toddlers went through a screaming and yelling stage. We responded with, “Only scream on the grass.” When he started to scream, we took him outside and let him scream it out. That stage soon passed.
Turn a problem into an opportunity
Approach temper tantrums as an opportunity to connect with your child. In this way, the child learns that you are a valuable resource to help him out of his mess. This sets the stage for trusted communication later when the stakes are higher than a temporary temper tantrum.
Once your child gets more verbal and can express his needs and frustrations more in words rather than actions, this behavior will soon pass.
Dr. Sears, or Dr. Bill as his “little patients” call him, has been advising busy parents on how to raise healthier families for over 40 years. He received his medical training at Harvard Medical School’s Children’s Hospital in Boston and The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, the world’s largest children’s hospital, where he was associate ward chief of the newborn intensive care unit before serving as the chief of pediatrics at Toronto Western Hospital, a teaching hospital of the University of Toronto. He has served as a professor of pediatrics at the University of Toronto, University of South Carolina, University of Southern California School of Medicine, and University of California: Irvine. As a father of 8 children, he coached Little League sports for 20 years, and together with his wife Martha has written more than 40 best-selling books and countless articles on nutrition, parenting, and healthy aging. He serves as a health consultant for magazines, TV, radio and other media, and his AskDrSears.com website is one of the most popular health and parenting sites. Dr. Sears has appeared on over 100 television programs, including 20/20, Good Morning America, Oprah, Today, The View, and Dr. Phil, and was featured on the cover of TIME Magazine in May 2012. He is noted for his science-made-simple-and-fun approach to family health.