Tantrums in Children: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

A tantrum is a way for your child to show frustration. Your child may not yet have the skills to express strong emotions in other ways. This is part of normal child development. Tantrums are more common when a child is afraid, very tired, or uncomfortable.

During a tantrum, children can cry, yell, and swing their arms and legs. Tantrums usually last 30 seconds to 2 minutes and are strongest at the start. Sometimes tantrums last longer and involve hitting, biting, or pinching. Some children can hurt themselves by banging their head against a wall or the floor. If this type of tantrum becomes common, you may need more help from your doctor.

You can learn how to handle your child's tantrums by taking the simple steps below. Parenting classes are also helpful in dealing with the challenges of raising a toddler.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Ignore your child's behaviour if he or she is having tantrums that last less than 2 minutes and your attempts to stop them make them worse. When you start ignoring tantrums, the behaviour may get worse for a few days before it stops.
  • It may not be possible to ignore some temper tantrums, such as when a child is kicking, biting, and pinching. It is important in these cases to make sure you keep your child from hurting others or from hurting himself or herself.
  • Praise your child for calming down. After a tantrum, comfort your child without giving in to his or her demands. Tell your child that he or she was out of control and needed time to calm down. Never make fun of your child for a temper tantrum. Do not use words like "bad girl" or "bad boy" to describe your child during a tantrum. Do not spank your child.
  • Teach your child to handle anger and frustration. Offer simple suggestions to help a child learn self-control. For example, tell your child to use words to express his or her feelings. Or give your child a safe place where he or she can go to calm down. Praise good behaviour often, not just after a tantrum.
  • Be a good role model. Children often learn by watching their parents. Set a good example by handling your own frustration calmly.
  • Have your child take a break from an activity that frustrates him or her. Instead, have your child start a task that he or she already knows how to do.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have problems handling your child's behaviour, especially if you worry that you might hurt your child.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • Your child hurts himself or herself or other people or becomes violent.
  • Your child has long-lasting and frequent temper tantrums.
  • Your child regularly has temper tantrums after 4 years of age.
  • You want help with your feelings during your child's tantrums.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/ed

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