What matters more?

In class we discussed the importance of the parent role when a child is throwing a temper tantrum. This led me to question what matters more.. the child to learn the value of emotional parameter or the parent’s sanity?

We have all been in the presence of a child when they are in the middle of a temper tantrum: a three year old boy wants a twinky so much that without it at that moment they have to stamp their feet and scream and run into the shelf and kick their mother and pound their fists into the ground to such an extreme that it seems that the child believes he might not continue living without that twinky. It is embarrassing and irritating to the parent and spectators alike and altogether a quite uncomfortable situation for all involved parties.

Emotional regulation is just starting to come into play around this age. It is a turning point in which the child is beginning to feel their own emotions and relies less on others’ reactions to their experiences to reinforce how to feel. In addition to this new process, emotions are sometimes felt in extremity during this stage in development: ie. a child might feel extreme anger or happiness, and, because a child with regular linguistic development has not yet managed to fit those emotions into a complete and proper sentence, the child might feel that the only way to express how they are feeling would be through a series of hysterical fits. However embarrassing this might be, these fits are “essential” from the prospect of emotional development because the child is experiencing such emotions, and subsequently learning to manage these intense situations on their own.

The parent’s reaction is reciprocally essential. Giving into a tantrum and simply providing the twinky can be tempting when a child’s wild behavior is ruining your evening or nearly deafening screams are incapacitating, however, negative consequences are sure to follow. Besides the reality of the power struggle in that the child knows if they scream or cry or kick or hold their breath long enough, you will give in, it is also a lasting concern when considering emotional development in children. When a parent gives in or cannot direct the child in a positive way, the child might become inhibited by the parent. He might from these actions assume that because the parent cannot deal with the child in his state of distress that he is, in fact, incapable of managing his own emotional state as well. He also might assume that strong emotions like anger and elated happiness are frightening or unwanted. The child needs to know that if they do not have the twinky they will go on living, and by interfering with that consequence, the parent could be sending the wrong message.

Experts express the efficiency short time-outs, talking softly to the child to calm them down, or simply ignoring the child’s behavior in the effort to deal with a tantrum. The most important item to consider when managing a child throwing a temper-tantrum is that, if they see that they get what they want when they scream and yell, they will continue to use this control over the caregiver on a regular basis, and that the emotional development of the child is unlikely to progress.

Kellie Gibson

(post 5)

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~ by alicefairinloveandwar on October 19, 2009.

2 Responses to “What matters more?”

  1. I think that it is also very good to be creative when dealing with these temper tantrums. Maybe when a kid throws a fit, the parent can start a tally system, something big and visible in the house so the kid is well aware of it. Every time the kid goes through a fit, a tally is placed, but if the kid doesn’t have a fit for a while then a positive consequence is given. However, this wouldn’t be to stop the kid from having a temper tantrum, it would be to show that the parents won’t back down, however will reward them when the kid gets it through their little heads that they don’t need to go through a fit every time they don’t get what they want. That’s just one example, what’s yours?

    Reuben Cousin

  2. In class we learned that temper tantrums are essential for emotional development and, in my opinion, the discouragement of this process might consequently be negative interference to the emotional development and management in the child. The most effective way to handle a temper tantrum is in action, as such a response is consistent. As mentioned above, research suggests ignoring the child’s fits, time-outs, and quiet coaching.

    Kellie Gibson

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