Andrea Loewen Nair: Connect-Four Parenting


When Your Child Has Many Tantrums

Questions to ask yourself when your child just keeps melting down.

screaming child

I recently asked the parents on my Facebook page to share their biggest challenges. Many parents explained that tantrums and the crazy-making behaviour of young children was the hardest thing for them right now. Yes, I too have cut "the wrong end of the freezie" so I understand what crazy-making means!

To address this, I am going to create a series of posts about tantrums/ wild behaviour and how to get through them reasonably intact. Today, I am providing a list of some the questions I ask parents when they come see me in my psychotherapy practice for help with multiple tantrums over many days.

As you read these questions, pay attention to which ones "resonate" — draws an emotional reaction or makes you pause and really start thinking.

First, have you used tantrum-prevention manoeuvres?

Is your child compromised? Tired, hungry, over-stimulated?

Is your child's attachment tank empty?

Is there a lack of routines?

Is bedtime not happening early enough?

Is your child adequately being warned when it is transition time?

Have you checked your child's temperature—does he/she have a fever? Or maybe a cold/flu is on its way? (There have been at least three times when I was surprised at my son's constant meltdowns, only to realize hours later that he had a fever.)

Is the child getting to "futility?" This is when a tantrum is allowed to finish—the child goes through anger, but then realizes whatever he/ she wants just isn't going to happen so the shift to acceptance and sadness is made. If children miss this shift and are continually distracted out of their tantrums by electronics, treats, toys they may not develop the skill of accepting they will not get their way, which is necessary for safety, health, learning, scheduling, brain growth, etc.

Next, ask yourself these assessment questions:

Is there something happening in my child's life that hurts him?

What can I do to help myself?

Am I being scary or hurtful? Or a nag?

Am I too stressed out?

Am I spending too much time away from my child?

Am I not giving my child any power? *Choices — Am I too bossy? (There is a difference between being a leader and being bossy.)

Is he grieving the loss of something?

Is there another adult in his life that is being rude/scary/harsh? — babysitter? daycare? teacher? partner?



Often tantrums are a child's sideways attempt at communication. Being a detective to see what the child might be trying to say can help reduce the frequency and intensity of emotional outbursts.


To be continued...

photo: flickr creative commons — mdanys