Misbehaving and Temper Tantrums

by admin on May 12, 2009

It is to be anticipated that daycare providers and preschool teachers will deal with whining and difficult behavior by the children in their care. Many young children throw temper tantrums when they don’t get their way. A temper tantrum is a negative emotional reaction exhibited by a young child that can involve hitting, crying, screaming, spitting, or refusing to comply with requests.  Young children do yet have the skills to cope with many difficult situations.  This is because they have not developed the language to express their frustrations, needs, wants, or protests. In addition, they have not developed self control. This results in “acting out”. These skills, along with the ability to reflect and plan, develop with age.


Temper Tantrums and Development

There is a normal developmental course for temper tantrums according to Dr. Joyce Willard Teal, author of Are You Raising the Next Generation of Hoodlums?


One and a half through two:  Children at this age will test limits to see how far they can go before the parent or teacher stops the behavior.


Three year olds: The children become less impulsive and can use language to express needs, but because they have learned by this age that a temper tantrum can get them what they want, they continue the tantrums, though they should become less frequent and less severe.


By the age of four: Most children have the necessary motor and physical skills to meet many of their own needs without relying so much on an adult. These children also have better language which allows them to articulate what they are angry or frustrated about. They are also at an age where they begin to understand compromise.


By age five: Most children will have outgrown temper tantrums, though kindergarten and school aged children can still have temper tantrums when they are faced with new interpersonal situations and/or demanding academic tasks that frustrate them.


How to Manage Temper Tantrums

One of the major keys to controlling a temper tantrum is to avoid reacting emotionally to the tantrum. Do not lecture, yell, or put the child in timeout. Remain calm and collected. Also avoid reasoning with the child.


When a child tantrums, it means he or she did not have a better way to handle a situation.  When running a daycare, childcare providers need to make the situation less stressful for the child and teach them a better way to handle the situation.


More importantly, it is essential to shut a tantrum down as soon as possible and to do so consistently. This gives the child the clear message that tantrums do not pay off.  If adults inconsistently give into the child who is having a tantrum, the child thinks this actually is behavior that will be rewarded.


There are two choices for handing a temper tantrum. You can either let the tantrum run its course, remaining calm or redirect the child to some other thing or activity such as a toy, a book, or offering to take the child for a walk.  When the tantrum is over spend some time with the child showing them better ways of asking for what they want.  This goes hand in hand with teaching manners and can also be implemented in a lesson plan.


Consistency Prevents Temper Tantrums

Consistency will prevent tantrums. Children will learn they will not get their way by throwing a tantrum and adults will not negotiate with such behavior. Talk to parents about how you are dealing with temper tantrums at daycare. When parents transition children into a daycare, they must also be consistent with managing these behaviors as well. Remember that lectures, emotional reactions, and timeout are all equally as rewarding as the child getting his or her way. The bottom line is if the child discovers this behavior does not reward him, the tantrums will end.


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Tom Shieh has written 323 post in this blog.

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