Taming the Tantrums

by Dr. Kyle Pruett, Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member
A moping child sitting at a table with toys and other children

One of the truly gnarly limit-pushers is the temper tantrum. These are the hallmark of the self-control wars in the early years. They are distinct from the gut-wringing cries of the sick, wet, desperately hungry or physically hurt infant or pre-toddler. They can look similar, and you can feel even more helpless. 

Tantrums start to occur in that period of development when the “me do” surge for autonomy becomes increasingly frustrated by the parent who knows the toddler’s abilities are still so limited that trouble lurks behind most corners. So when the child’s limited ability frustrates a particular goal, or a parent intervenes to rein them in, the internal frustrations can erupt into a screaming, kicking, crying rage. 

Every time you help your child recover from such a debacle without humiliation or irrational punishment, they learn that their impulses cannot destroy the world and that you can help them learn how to manage this tiger. 

Finally, two pieces of advice about limit setting and self-control that are hard for many parents to remember. When setting limits: 

  • The fewer words the better. 
  • Actions speak louder than words.
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