Temper tantrums -- we’ve all been there and it’s one of the most frustrating parts of parenthood. You’re out shopping and your child has a complete meltdown in the grocery store. You can feel the stares of other parents – some looking with pity and some with judgement -- as you try to keep the situation from escalating further.
There is nothing surprising about children having temper tantrums. It’s a natural part of growing up, with 50 percent of two and three-year-olds having regular tantrums in North America. Tantrums occur equally in boys and girls in preschool years. What may be surprising, though, is some of the causes of these emotional outbursts, and the role your own individual behaviour and lifestyle may be having on your children. Kids are sponges, after all, and model their behaviour after you. Here are some of the reasons your child may be acting out.
7 Are You Suffering From Depression?
We all go through bouts of depression now and again. Sad situations, such as the death of a loved one or losing your job may cause you to feel depressed. That is normal and situational. Clinical depression, however, is the most severe form of depression and can seriously affect your life, work and personal relationships. Your relationship with your children is certainly no exception. Parental depression can take a toll on your kids over time.
How Does This Happen?
Depression affects the way we express our emotions and changes our behaviour as a result. Depressed parents tend to smile less and may make less eye contact with their children. They may not be as engaging and playful with their kids. Research suggests that children with a depressed parent are more likely to act out, regardless of which parent suffers from depression.
6 Is Chronic Stress a Problem?
High levels of stress can wreak havoc in your life, impacting every aspect of it. When you continually experience the “flight or fight” response, it can raise blood pressure, lower your immune system and speed up the aging process, among other things. It’s serious stuff. The unfortunate part is that chronic stress also negatively impacts our children.
The Effect of Chronic Stress on Kids
David Code, author of “Kids Pick Up on Everything: How Parental Stress is Toxic to Kids,” believes chronic parental stress can have damaging effects on children and seriously impact their development. How parents cope with stressors in their lives can affect their offspring’s ability to handle stress. As mentioned earlier, children are sponges after all and model their behaviour after the adults in their lives.
5 High Anxiety
Much like chronic stress, high anxiety levels can also interfere with your life and impact the lives of your children. Kids can observe their parents’ worries and fears and then adopt these same worries.
Anxious parents may also have what is called negative parenting behaviours – unnecessarily shielding a child from something the parent fears. So if a parent has an intense fear of water, the child may also develop this fear, or be forbidden to even go near water.
What does Research Have to Say?
Research has suggested that the children of anxious parents are more likely to be anxious themselves. Anxious children have less of a handle on their emotions, which can lead to temper tantrums and other ways of acting out.
4 Bickering Parents
We’re only human and bound to argue sometimes. The odd argument certainly won’t negatively affect your child’s life. Problems can fester, though, when things go beyond casual bickering and the home becomes a battleground.
When parents are on the verge of divorce or have divorced, children can experience a roller coaster of emotions. Feelings of anger, confusion, sadness and frustration can cause them to act out aggressively. If your child was prone to temper tantrums before, they may get more intense and frequent.
Watch How You Act
While you cannot control how your child reacts to the upheaval in the home, you can take precautions to monitor your behaviour and your child’s. Remember that your actions and words carry a great weight and affects how your child perceives the world.
3 Setting Limits and Sticking to Them
When I was a child, I knew my mother would never follow through on a consequence to bad behaviour. “You’re not watching any television for a month” she’d say. I’d snicker a bit, because I knew I’d be back to watching my favourite shows the next day.
Many parents do not follow through on rules because they don’t want to look like the villain. But setting limits for your child – and sticking with them – is vital for teaching him self-control. If a child thinks you will bend on rules, there’s simply no incentive to follow them.
Hold On to Your Limits
Children can quickly learn how to get what they want by stomping their feet and having an emotional meltdown. By holding onto your limits and not reinforcing bad behaviour, your child may soon realize he won’t accomplish much by having a temper tantrum.
2 Helicopter Parenting
This is a term given to parents who continually hover over their children, watching their every move. They overprotect their children to the point that it can become a hindrance to their growth and development.
If a child begins to feels suffocated from the constant attention, temper tantrums can result as a way of breaking free and asserting independence. As hard as it is to do, giving your child some space and some independence will help them to feel less controlled.
The Best Way Out
Your child is not going to like all the constant attention you give him. It is best for you to give him a bit of space and a little independence so that he does not end up feeling like you control his life.
1 Lack of Communication
Just as we need good communication skills in a relationship, it’s also important to communicate with your child – even at a young age. Consider this scenario: you’re late dropping your child off to daycare, and he insists on putting his own snowsuit on. You’re in a hurry and just don’t have the time to watch your child attempt to put his outerwear on himself. He may snap back and get upset, resulting in a meltdown. He is clearly communicating his desire to be independent and get himself ready for school. He is having a tantrum to assert his need to be self-directed.
It’s important to develop two-way communication with your child and raise him to be confident and capable. And just because you can do the job better, doesn’t mean you should do the work for your child. By encouraging your child to put his own snowsuit on, for example, it’s showing him you are confident in his abilities and helping him to be self-reliant. You may be a few minutes late to daycare, but if it means avoiding a tantrum, you will probably save yourself loads of time in the long run.
Temper tantrums are not pleasant for both the child and the parent. But sometimes your child’s tantrums go beyond him just being plain “bratty.” He could be modelling behavior he sees on a regular basis. Kids are always watching what you do. They watch how you react to stress, the ways you handle conflict and how you treat others. Remember, adults have tantrums, too. Ours are just more controlled because we have mature coping mechanisms and greater social awareness. Our children aren’t quite there yet and need some help learning how to deal with this journey of life.