Young children throw tantrums when we least expect it, often in the wrong place or at the wrong time.
Any parent knows what it feels like when their little one has a tantrum in the middle of the park , in line at the supermarket, in a restaurant or in the doctor’s waiting room.
These are distressing moments that overwhelm us and that we don’t always know how to deal with. Moments in which you feel the judicious looks of those around you , impatiently waiting for you to calm down your little one to prevent him from continuing to “bother”. But therein lies precisely our error.
And it is that emotions do not understand formalities or inappropriate places. Children cry and overflow when they need to communicate something to us that they do not know how to do with words. In this sense, tantrums are, so to speak, the tip of an iceberg that hides much more than what we see.
Children do not have tantrums with the intention of upsetting the adult
Sometimes we parents make the mistake of wanting to calm our little one’s tantrum at all costs with the main objective of stopping him from yelling and bothering those around us. That is to say, what they will say is more important to us than what is really happening in their little brain.
The fact that a tantrum is uncomfortable or bothersome for the adult is not the fault of the child, but of the adult who witnesses it and who is not able to understand that beyond that behavior there is an invisible need (physical or emotional) that needs to be attended to.
On the other hand, it is absurd to think that the baby or small child reasons , feels or understands the world in the same way as we do, since their brain is still immature and shows important differences with the adult brain . Therefore, tantrums are completely normal and are part of the child’s development.
What can cause a tantrum?
As we mentioned at the beginning, we could visualize the child’s tantrum, emotional outburst or tantrum as if it were an iceberg .
The tip, that is to say what we see, would be the behavior of the child at the moment when he bursts into a tantrum. For example: kicking, screaming, crying, self- harm … But it is essential not to stay on the surface and delve into what may be under that iceberg.
There may also be situations that affect your emotional state that are more difficult to detect. It happens, for example, when the child feels threatened, uncomfortable or stressed and suddenly explodes without us understanding the reasons.
Among the causes that could cause tantrums in these cases would be , among many others, the normal jealousy caused by the arrival of a little brother ; be experiencing a complicated family situation (for example, a divorce); starting school or experiencing a stressful situation at school ; to be playing in the park and another child takes her toy away from her or we force him to share against her will…
Similarly, the frustrations of the first years of life are another of the most common causes of tantrums in children, and can also be caused by multiple factors .
When we talk about children with high emotional sensitivity , the causes that could cause an outburst can be even more complex in the eyes of adults. And it is that these children often feel overwhelmed by visual, sensory and auditory stimuli that they perceive, and that the older ones are not always capable of detecting and understanding.
But although we have pointed out some of the most frequent causes of tantrums in young children, the truth is that it is not always possible to find out.
What do I do if my child has a tantrum?
Whenever possible, it is convenient to anticipate the tantrum . For example, if we have to go shopping and our little one is tired or hungry, the most logical and desirable thing is that we first attend to their needs and then run the errand.
But it is not always possible to avoid emotional outbursts, so once the tantrum breaks out we must accompany the child and support him emotionally . This will make her see that we care about what happens to her and that we are by her side to help her get through that bad time.
At no time should we turn our backs on him, ignore his crying or repress his emotions , but rather teach him to manage them . For this we have to help him to express them, to give them a name and gradually modulate that emotion in intensity, duration and impact .
Similarly, we must “dive” and try to find the cause that has caused this emotional outburst.
To understand the child, it is essential to put ourselves at their level , ask open questions that help us find out what has happened and listen carefully .
We must always act from calm, respect and empathy , letting ourselves be guided by the unconditional love we feel towards our child and avoiding negative and disrespectful practices that not only would not help contain the situation, but would make it worse.
As children grow , tantrums or emotional outbursts become less frequent and intense, not only because they have acquired the ability to verbally communicate what is happening to them, but also because they will have emotional tools to self-regulate .