Early Childhood News

Tantrums: When Children Most Need Our Kindness (and Respect)

Tantrums are a normal part of development. Tantrums happen most between ages 1 and 3 years.

Often tantrums happen before children can talk and around the time of language development. Before they can express themselves verbally, children get frustrated and a tantrum can result.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has some great tips to prevent – and survive – tantrums.

Some kids throw a tantrum at the seemingly smallest thing. Other kids rarely melt down. But either way when a tantrum strikes, it’s no fun for the parent.

Perhaps that’s partly why a troubling new trend is spreading across social media – parents posting videos of their child’s meltdown on Instagram with captions that aim to highlight the absurdity of the tantrum.

A story published in the New York Times and written by child psychologists recently shined a spotlight on this trend.

You might be thinking, what’s the harm in a little lighthearted fun in the midst of a meltdown?

According to the authors, the problem is the mockery: “Another person’s distress should not be a signal to pull out your phone, craving “likes.” That’s bad enough when it’s a stranger on a plane, but how much the more so when it’s your child, who needs your respect and compassion?”

A child’s tantrum is often not about the event that may have triggered it (like her water being too wet).

As adults, if we are having a bad day, we might fall apart, cry, get angry or yell. In a similar way, children’s tantrums are often the result of emotions they feel that need to be released.

When our children melt down, we shouldn’t tell them it’s not a big deal or tell them to stop crying. As parents, we need to help them process and release the anger and sadness they feel.

Children need the adults in their lives to recognize and accept all of their emotions. This helps them learn how to effectively manage powerful feelings.

If we laugh at, ignore or distract our children from the emotions that they feel, we teach them that these are the best ways to manage painful emotions. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

There are excellent parenting programs right here in Jeffco (e.g., Nurse-Family Partnership and Parents As Teachers to name two) that help parents learn effective strategies to prevent and manage challenging behavior.

You can also use the search feature below to find programs and resources in our community.