Temper Tantrums

My 3-year-old daughter was born screaming with tremendous, outrageous screams that seemed to rattle the walls. I've tried to be careful not to give in when she throws a tantrum, but she does it even when she gets what she wants. She's doing a little better now that she can communicate, but she still has outrageous reactions to things and at least one or two major tantrums a day. She almost never acts this way when she's with others, so maybe it's because I'm the one who disciplines her and doesn't give in to her tantrum. I'm wondering if she needs professional help or if her attitude is typical of a strong-willed child.

A. Let me address the last part of your question first. If the tantrums last only a few minutes (seven or less), your child is pretty normal. If these tantrums are 20-30 minute crying jags, there is possibly a more serious problem that needs professional attention from a Christian family specialist.

Next I want to focus on some helpful ways you can deal with your daughter's angry outbursts. It's good that you're not giving in to her tantrums, but I'd like you to consider that there might be some hidden reinforcers in the tantrum behavior. Often, children throw tantrums not only to get the thing they're asking for, but to get the attention of their parents. It could be that your daughter gets more time with you if she engages you in a battle. Even if you're refusing her requests, you might still be giving her the attention she's trying to get.

Instead of reacting to your daughter's tantrum, simply put her in a time out the moment she starts to gear up for an all-out fit. When she's calm, reward her for good anger management by reading a book or playing a game together. When she learns that her tantrums lead to less attention from you, she may start to change her behavior.

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May 25

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