Category Archives: Anger & Tantrums in Children

How to Eliminate the Separation Anxiety Tantrum

Does your child erupt in an earth shattering tantrum when she is going to be separated from you?

For some parents dealing their child’s tantrums at separation can be so intense that they consider altering family plans and even work arrangements to avoid their child having a fit.

It’s common for younger children to suddenly be fearful of leaving mom or dad. If your child has never been away from you for extended periods of time, then many things can trigger separation anxiety. Family changes such as starting school or even going to a new day care can trigger separation anxiety. Even children who have gone to daycare from the time they were little can experience separation anxiety upon family changes.

Here are a few tips for parents who are dealing with their children having separation anxiety:

  1. Send a picture of the family with your child when they are going to be separated from you. If your child is having separation anxiety at school, ask the teacher if your child can keep the picture at her desk. This way if your child is starting to feel homesick, she can take a quick peek at mom or dad.
  2. Reassure your child that you will see her again soon. When dropping off your child, remind her of the schedule. Let her know who will be picking her up and when she will see you again. For example, “Have a great day at school today. Dad will be at the bus stop to pick you up when school is over. And I will see you at dinner time after I get off work.” Keep your sentences short and simple to understand.
  3. Keep a routine. Children often develop anxiety when there is instability in their schedules. Keeping a routine with a consistent daily and weekly schedule will give your child a feeling of security and thereby reduce her anxiety.
  4. Don’t dwell at drop off. Keep drop offs as brief as possible. Give your child a goodbye hug and kiss. Remind them when you will see her again, and say goodbye. Overly long, drawn out goodbyes when your child is clinging to you and you’re both crying will not help reduce your child’s separation anxiety.

Try out these tips if your child is struggling with separation anxiety and erupts in a tantrum when she’s going to be separated from you.

For more support in handling every type of tantrum, check out our Temper Tantrums Workshop.

Disciplining Children: When and When Not To

Disciplining children is overwhelming. Knowing when to discipline and when to let it go is sometimes impossible. I know from personal experience how difficult it is in the moment to know when to discipline children and when not to. When we’re in the moment with our children, it’s hard to see the forest for the trees.

The best key to making the snap decision on whether to discipline your children or not is to assess the level of harm they are doing. Are your children being aggressive? Then you need to discipline children for such behaviors. Hitting, kicking, biting are all aggressive behaviors that warrant disciplining a child. Immediately stop the behavior and give your child a consequence for that behavior.

On the other hand, if your child is simply being annoying (Yes, I said it. At times even the most patient parent can be annoyed by our children!), then the best method for disciplining children is by ignoring the annoying behavior.

If your child is whining, ask him to use his “Big Boy words” and walk away.

If your children are bickering in the other room, ignore it. As long as no one is being aggressive, let them work the problem out for themselves.

There’s no need to discipline children who are bickering amongst themselves as long as no one is being aggressive. Your boss doesn’t get involved in every workplace spat and neither should you with your children.

Of course, there are gray areas when it comes to disciplining children. Let’s take swearing for example. If your child is swearing at another person, then this would be considered being verbally aggressive and you will want to discipline your child for this behavior.

However, if your child is playing alone in the other room and uses a swear word, then this is a situation where you might have a talk with your child about appropriate vs. inappropriate language, but you wouldn’t necessarily need to formally discipline him.

Ignoring is a very effective discipline strategy when it is used appropriately. It can help manage a variety of behaviors and can help kids learn appropriate ways to get attention. When combined with other discipline techniques ignoring can be a great tool.

Ignoring can help kids learn to how deal with their feelings in socially appropriate ways. For example, instead of screaming and stomping his feet when he’s upset, your child can learn other coping skills to deal his feelings of sadness or disappointment.

So what behaviors should you ignore?

  • Whining
  • Repeatedly asking the same question
  • Mildly talking back
  • Temper tantrums

Without the audience, these behaviors usually aren’t much fun and kids will give up (eventually).

How to Actively Ignore:

  1. Ignoring requires that you completely ignore your child’s misbehaviors. This means no eye contact, no conversation, and no physical touch.
  2. You will know that your attempts at ignoring are effective if the behavior gets worse initially. When a child is not getting the response he wants, he may scream louder, try to get in your face, or whine even more.
  3. Don’t give in if the behaviors start to get worse. Otherwise, this will reinforce to your child that these behaviors are effective. Once you start ignoring, make sure you continue to ignore until the behavior ceases.
  4. As soon as the behavior stops, provide your child with attention again in order to reinforce to your child that being calm gains attention and together you can talk about his feelings and find solutions to the problem that upset him.
  5. It can be helpful to sit your child down when he is calm to explain the plan. Tell him when you will ignore him and explain how he can regain your attention. Then, your child will be aware of the direct link between his behaviors and your reaction.

Common Concerns about Ignoring:

  1. Parents may be concerned that ignoring will be emotionally scarring to their child. It’s important to remember that you aren’t ignoring your child; it is the negative behaviors you are ignoring.
  2. Parents may worry that they cannot tolerate ignoring their child’s behaviors. It can be helpful to distract yourself with a book or television to help you ignore. It can also help to keep reminding yourself that although it may be distressing in the short-term it will help your child in the long-term.
  3. It’s important to work with other caregivers on discipline strategies. If you are trying to ignore your child’s tantrum and Grandma steps in to say “What’s wrong honey?” it will reinforce to the child that his behaviors are effective.

Disciplining children is a challenge that all parents face, but if you use this one key principle or ignoring the minor, irritating behaviors of your child as your guide, it will make the challenge much less daunting. Soon you’ll find yourself confident in knowing when to discipline children and when to just let it go.

For more discipline strategies, check out our Parenting Success System.  There you can discover additional discipline strategies and more discussion on when to discipline and when to not discipline your child.

Intermittent Explosive Disorder: What every Parent needs to know

Explosive DisorderThe sky darkens, turning an awful mix of blues, blacks, greys, greens.  First come the winds, bursts of warm and cold.  Then the thunder and lightning, bursting through the sky, rattling the windows.  Finally the rain, pelting down thick drops in sheets of water.  Tornado warnings flash bright red across the TV screen.  Time to take shelter.

If you’re from the Midwest, then weather scenes like this are commonplace, but if you have a child with Intermittent Explosive Disorder, you can probably relate to the fear of impending destruction just as well!

As described on ChildMind.org, Intermittent Explosive Disorder is a behavior disorder characterized by brief episodes of disproportionate anger and aggression.  It typically appears in late childhood or adolescence.  A child with Intermittent Explosive Disorder simply can’t control his anger and will impulsively explode into rage with little or no cause.  Typically, children with Intermittent Explosive Disorder will have frequent anger outbursts such as tantrums, arguments, and fights.  These anger outbursts are typically severe in nature.  What sets Intermittent Explosive Disorder apart from typical tantrums or Oppositional Defiant Disorder is that these frequent anger outbursts are punctuated by less frequent, more severe outbursts that include injury to people or animals or property damage.  Intermittent Explosive Disorder greatly interferes with a child’s family life, his social relationships, and his academic performance.

Children with Intermittent Explosive Disorder have low frustration tolerance and are easily “set off” by small annoyances.  They often become physically and verbally aggressive, causing property damage or physical injury, such as breaking furniture or getting into physical fights with peers, siblings, or other family members.  Anger outbursts, or “explosions,” are usually brief and impulsive.  Children with Intermittent Explosive Disorder are typically unable to resist angry impulses and explode in a manner disproportionate to the preceding event/situation.

People with Intermittent Explosive Disorder describe the anger outbursts as feeling overcome with anger and out of control.  According to Childmind.org, some even experience a sensation of building tension in the head or chest that is released when they act out aggressively.

Who can be diagnosed with Intermittent Explosive Disorder? Anyone can be diagnosed with Intermittent Explosive Disorder, but children who have experienced physical or emotional trauma are at a higher likelihood of developing the disorder.  Also, children who have a close family member who has been diagnosed with Intermittent Explosive Disorder are more likely to develop the disorder themselves.

So what can parents do?

  • Children with Intermittent Explosive Disorder are at a higher risk of self-harm behaviors or suicide.  Parents should be aware of their child’s emotional triggers and be on the lookout for possible signs of self-harm or suicidal ideation.
  • Learn your child’s triggers.  While children with Intermittent Explosive Disorder are frequently set off by seemingly insignificant circumstances, there are probably triggers that you KNOW will set your child off.  Be proactive in avoiding these triggers or preparing your child for the possibility that such circumstances may occur.
  • Learn Positive Parenting skills.  If you have a child with Intermittent Explosive Disorder, you’re probably feeling like you’re at the end of your rope.  You probably don’t enjoy spending time with your child for fear of the “tornado.”

Behavior Management Coaching can help parents deal more effectively with angry, out of control, “explosive” children.  Contact us today to learn how you can better manage your child’s angry behavior and strengthen your parent-child relationship in the process!  Talk to us today.

A Parent’s Survival Guide to Tantrums

Your young child is going through a change of volcanic proportion. You can see it coming, but you can’t do anything about it. The transformation, much like a volcano, involves growing noise and intensity.

It starts with the whining and whimpering. That’s when you say to yourself, “Okay, not so bad, if it stops now.” It’s hard to watch as a parent…especially when it goes way beyond the crabbiness threshold. The smoldering volcano, that is your child, erupts into nasty screaming, uncontrolled crying, and a full-fledged fit.

When your child blows up into a volcanic tantrum, it can be tough to keep yourself from having your own meltdown (especially if you’re in a public place in front of all those judgmental people who’ve forgotten their own childhoods or are so holier-than-thou with their own angelically calm kids in tow).

Temper tantrums are loud, annoying and embarrassing for every parent. That’s why you often react by getting angry or giving in. You feel controlled by your kid’s behavior.

It’s natural to feel ineffective and helpless when your child is out of control. You think you have to do something to stop the outburst. But what do you do?

First, you have to understand why tantrums happen.

The reasons for tantrums

Temper tantrums range from whining and crying to screaming, kicking, hitting, and breath holding. They’re equally common in boys and girls and usually occur between the ages of 1 to 4, but aren’t limited to toddlers. They’re a normal part of development and don’t have to be seen as something negative. Unlike adults, kids simply don’t have the same inhibitions or control.

Usually tantrums occur when children are seeking attention or are tired, hungry, afraid, or uncomfortable. In addition, tantrums are often the result of kids’ frustration with the world—they can’t get something (for example, an object or a parent) to do what they want. Frustration is an unavoidable part of their lives as they learn how people, objects, and their own bodies work.

Personally, I don’t think most tantrums are preventable. It’s natural for young children to have tantrums. After all, adults have them, too, when someone cuts us off in traffic. But we can impact how often and how long they go on by the way we respond to our children’s outbursts.

Tips to tame tantrums

Most importantly, don’t have your child-tantrumown tantrum. You don’t want to respond with the same energy as your 3-year-old. Remember, you are the adult. The extent to which you have made peace with the normal, though difficult, emotions of anger and frustration determines how calm, empathetic, and clear you can remain when your child has a tantrum.

Need a little encouragement? Parents magazine provides a few tips to stop the meltdown with younger children, particularly toddlers and kids under age 4:

  1. Give your child a squeeze—Some moms say that picking up your children during a tantrum and giving them a big hug works to make them feel safe and loved.
  2. Try a time-out—Children often don’t know how to pull themselves together without a little help from you. Just hold them and tell them to breathe deeply. We stay there until they calm down and you can talk to them about what happened.
  3. Ignore them—When you look the other way, they don’t get attention or what they want. Then, you can ask them to calm down.
  4. Give them some space—Sometimes a kid just needs to get his anger out. So let him! This approach works because it helps children learn how to vent in a nondestructive way. They’re able to get their feelings out, pull themselves together, and regain self-control, without engaging in a yelling match or battle of wills with you. This can work on its own or in tandem with the ignoring bit.
  5. Offer an alternative—Another thing that seems to work with some children is to create a diversion. You might try saying, “I know you are frustrated. When you are done with the meltdown, we can go read a book.” Or offer a toy or ask for their help in making a decision. Eventually the idea of doing something else gets them to stop.
  6. Never give in—If you do, they’ll repeat the behavior every time they want something or simply want to control you.

When tantrums continue

The good news is that most children outgrow tantrums, as they learn to handle emotions and frustrations. However, as a child grows older and tantrums keep occurring, there may be underlying medical problems. So talk to your pediatrician about such things as ear infections or communication issues.

Children who still have tantrums after the age of 4 may need help learning to deal with anger. If tantrums continue or start during the school years, they may be a sign of other issues, such as learning problems or trouble getting along with other children. Tantrums in school age children are no laughing matter. While they may not throw tantrums, as such, adolescents and teenagers will become relentless in trying to manipulate you and other adults, which can be very disturbing.

Behavior Management Coaching can help parents deal more effectively with angry, defiant children, and help you make real changes in your children’s behavior…to build strong relationships with them for the long term. Talk to us today.