Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Baby Temper Tantrums

I used to think that the average age when children began to have temper tantrums was around three or four. Whenever I witnessed a child in the grocery store or in the mall having a fit, they were usually around this age. I often wondered at what point a cute little baby becomes a terror. I have seen children on the floor screaming to the top of their lungs and kicking, one kid started throwing cereal boxes on the floor, and another tried to tilt the grocery cart over. Each time the tantrum started because the child could not have their way.

I have recently learned that my assumption about when temper tantrums begin was wrong. The truth is that tantrums begin much earlier than three or four years old. Granted some children are perfect angels as babies, they then turn into a completely different child a few years later. Understandably all children will throw a tantrum at some point. However, parents should be concerned about the frequency of tantrums and the severity. Severe tantrums do not begin overnight. Generally these children started having tantrums as early as six months old. Few parents know how to handle their childs tantrum.

Disciplining a baby can be difficult for two reasons. The first reason is that parents discover that it is hard to see pass the cuteness of their baby. The first time a baby throws a tantrum the parents may not know how to handle the situation. They may even think that it is funny. Admittedly, I once chuckled at a nine-month old having a tantrum. However, the child was not mine therefore I did not have to deal with the lasting effects. Parents who notice that their baby frequently has fits because they cannot get their way should avoid thinking the situation is humorous.

The second reason why disciplining may be difficult is because some parents do not know the best way to discipline a baby. It is easier to discipline an older child because they understand privileges being taken away or time-outs. Although difficult to train babies, it is not impossible. Some educators make claims that children under a year old do not understand discipline. Life experience has taught me different. Baby temper tantrums can be controlled. Waiting until the child becomes older to curtail tantrums is not always effective.

Children need to be trained infancy. A magazine article interviewed parents who were experiencing behavior problems with their young children. Over half the parents admitted that they failed to discipline and set boundaries when the children were babies. They waited until the child became five or six to set rules. By then it is too late. The child has already been accustomed to getting its way. These same parents also admitted that their children threw tantrums as babies, instead of correcting the baby, they ignored it. Ignoring the tantrums will not make them go away. As the child becomes older they get into the routine of falling out, kicking, and screaming.

There are ways for parents to control temper tantrums in children under a year old. Children who are prone to throw tantrums usually start around six months old. The first time may not be a big deal; the baby could simply be having a bad day. If the baby continually has tantrums, the parent should take action. Baby tantrums usually consists of screaming, kicking, scratching own self, and falling out. The baby may try and throw themselves out of their parent's arms. Sometimes ignoring the tantrum will help. If the child sees that they are not getting the desired response or attention, they stop. However, in situations when a tantrum lasts several minutes, ignoring may not be an option.

The parent should pick up the baby and place he, or she on their lap. If the baby squirms frantically or tries to hit, the parents should restrain their arms and try to calm them. Do not loosen grip until the child calms down. It is important for parents not to become upset. Your added frustration on top of a temper tantrum will make the situation worse.

It is easy for parents to give in to a temper tantrum. For example, if the tantrum started because the parent took away an item that they baby wanted to play with, it is tempting to simply give the baby the item to calm them. Resist this urge. Children need to learn early that they cannot have everything they want. Giving in to fits of angry gives the message that tantrums are the way to get what you want. Temper tantrums cannot be curtailed overnight. The key is consistency. As the baby becomes older they will gradually learn what behavior is acceptable, and which is not acceptable.


canada1951 said...

My little grandson is 6 months old and is starting to throw temper tantrums. Its quite alarming the high pitched shrilling, hurlimg himself around on your lap and going red in the face. He has been spoiled since birth because he was a premature baby we all showered him with love and did anything to amuse him day and night. His temper is really bad and I am a bit concerned. It's dragging my daughter down a bit emotionally, and me too. Can you help? Thankyou Barb

fmilne said...

Hi Valencia,
I am glad to see someone tackling the issue of tantrum in under 1 year olds. My darling son falls into this category. As you said in your post, it started when he was a little over 6 months. We didnt know what to do and would just watch him having his tantrum. Most tantrums started with me saying NO. I also agree that it is more so difficult to be the strong pillar you are at home, in public.
However I do not agree with you in saying you should physically restrain the child as the only answer. I would think that giving the child an option to calm themselves down would be a very good idea as we arnt always going to be there and perhaps if they had the tools to help themselves they might put two and two together sooner rather than later and help themselves to clam down before they even have the tantrum.
I also know from experience that holding a child in a tantrum can make them angrier as they feel restricted and forced. I would also like to know if I can plan on the "terrible twos" getting worse, or is this it?
Thanks for the article, Melissa.

Jasmine said...

I work in childcare and have an 8 month old girl who often throws tantrums. She is the youngest of 3 and is accustomed to being held a lot at home, or when she fusses she is immediatedly gratified by her parent, who probably has never recoginzed that 50% of the time this child fusses that it is a tantrum. But let's face it, in childcare reality has to set in- among this child i have a class of 7 other children ages 7 months to 20 months that my aide and i need to attend to also (obviously) and can not have this one child ruling the roost. Often times this little girl will cry with no hesitation when she's only been on the floor playing for 15 minutes or so, with a teacher right by her side. She scrambles to be right on top of you, and still continues to scream if you set her as close as in-between your legs instead of on you. Other times you know it's clearly a tantrum and she will scream and cry, with no let down whatsoever, and never shows any sign of self calming whether you try to ignore her, distract her, or even pick her up to give us a moment of sanity from the excessive, exhilirated crying that has not stopped for the past 5 minutes or more. What advice would one give us for this child who is very challenging and has not responded at all to any of our reactions towards her?

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