What can I do if my child throws tantrums?

Children before 3 years old are still very self-centered. They need to get what they want immediately. Moreover, their ability to control emotions, to express and understand are still developing. Therefore, they often cry and act out what they feel.

My child is already five but still throws tantrums often, what can I do?

If your child learns that she will get what she wants when she throws tantrums, she will continue to do it. Therefore, you have to be firm in dealing with her behavious by being prompt in dealing with it, following through and be consistent in using a method. And all caregivers should use the same approach on the child. Your child will then learn that she can’t use tantrums to get whatever she wants.

What exactly can I do?

For mild and non-hurtful misbehaviours, such as crying, hitting herself lightly, casting objects, we may use ‘planned ignoring’, that is, ignore the child totally, do not look at her, talk to her or wipe her tears, until she stops the misbehaviour. Once your child stops, you can divert her attention to something interesting and praise her, such as ‘I like your being quiet.’ or ‘You can take out the toys all by yourself. That’s great!’ Remember, when you first use ‘planned ignoring’, your child may intensify her behaviour in order to draw your attention. If you persist, your child will finally learn that she cannot draw your attention by throwing tantrums and the behaviour will thus die down.

What if she throws tantrums in public places?

Always stay calm when dealing with children’s misbehaviours. If the situation is embarrassing or disturbing to others around, or their misbehaviours are hurtful, we have to use other strategies. You can go near to the child and stop her immediately. Tell her what she should do, for example say, ‘Speak in a gentle voice’, and show her how to use appropriate behaviours to replace tantrums. If your child follows what you say, praise her immediately. If she continues to throw tantrums, use ‘time out’ to let her learn the consequence of the misbehaviour and give her a chance to quiet down.

How can I carry out “Time Out”?

Tell your child exactly what she did wrong so that she has to be put in “time out”. “Time out” is carried out by taking the child away to a corner or a room that is safe and has nothing interesting. The time out period should last for 1 to 5 minutes only, depending on the child’s age. Once time out starts, you and others in the family should leave the child, without giving any attention to her. If the child is still shouting when the fixed time is up, she has to stay quiet for at least 1 minute before time out is over. If situations do not allow you to leave, such as in a public place, you may have to stay with her until she calms down, but you should not talk to her, or even look at her. When she can keep calm and time out is finished, let your child return to activity. Remember, use of the above procedures in managing tantrums requires strict adherence and repeated practice to be successful.