EXCLUSIVE: Fed up with your child’s tantrums? Experts reveal the science behind the dreadful outbursts and how parents can endure them
- Your child’s tempter tantrums are helpful for their development
- Experts say holding in their emotions can get in the way of their natural self
- READ MORE: Huge mistakes parents make when their child throws a tantrum
Parents dread the moment their child bursts out in tears, kicking and screaming in a fit of rage – but experts reveal tantrums are helpful for your little one’s development.
Meltdowns are a physiological response connected to the brain’s natural threat detection system triggered by a child’s inability to manage emerging emotions.
Releasing them helps little ones eliminate the feelings that can get in the way of their natural, cooperative self.
Rachel FitzD, a baby and parenting expert, told DailyMail.com: ‘Just like you and me, when children of whatever age feel emotionally overwhelmed, they can respond by having a meltdown.
‘Your child will handle their overwhelm more easily in the future if you have given them the space to get through the experience safely and with their self-esteem intact, and with loving compassion and respect from you.’
Terrible tantrums are helpful for your little one’s development. Meltdowns are a physiological response connected to the brain’s natural threat detection system triggered by a child’s inability to manage emerging emotions
Temper tantrums usually start at around 18 months and are very common in toddlers. And it tends to get worse at ages two and three – hence the saying ‘terrible twos.’
Researchers have found that tantrums occur in 87 percent of 18 to 24-month-olds, 91 percent of 30 to 36-month-olds and 59 percent of 42 to 48-month-olds.
‘This is a normal human response, and the only difference between them and us is that we have gained enough experience and maturity to have learned avoidance and coping strategies,’ said FitzD, who is also an expert speaker at The Baby Show.
‘Meltdowns start in early toddlerhood – from around the first birthday – as the tot develops a more in-depth and complex emotional life.
‘We see the good side of this as they fling themselves at us with adoration for kisses and cuddles, and charm us with their joy at the smallest of life’s pleasures. But just as they cannot easily regulate their joyful exuberance, so they are not yet able to manage the darker side of their newly emerging emotions.’
Until their cortex is developed, a young child’s only way of telling you about what is bothering them is through expressing their feelings.
‘Children with language deficits or autism may have more frequent and aggressive tantrum behaviors because of the additional frustration associated with difficulty expressing themselves,’ according to a paper published by Laura Sisterhen and Paulette Ann W. Wy with the University of Arkansas.
Parents tend to be perplexed about what triggered the outburst, but FitzDsays one of the main triggers is hunger.
‘Toddlers and young children have enormous energy and are growing fast in body and brain and so need a constant flow of food. But they have very small stomachs – just the size of their closed fist,’ she said.
Rachel FitzD, a baby and parenting expert, told DailyMail.com: ‘Just like you and me, when children of whatever age feel emotionally overwhelmed, they can respond by having a meltdown
Parents tend to be perplexed about what triggered the outburst, but FitzD reveals different causes, one being hunger and the others being tiredness and frustration
‘The reason that little ones will overlook broccoli in favor of brown bread and butter is not because of poor parenting but because broccoli simply fills the stomach but provides minimal calories.
‘Without a pretty constant flow of healthy carbs, fats and fruit sugars, ‘hanger’ sets in, the brain can’t think straight, and the slightest thing will push them over the edge.’
READ MORE: The terrible twos are REAL: Toddlers know they are throwing tantrums from 24 months old
It may not come as a massive surprise to parents, but scientists have discovered that toddlers as young as two understand that the sounds they make influence the people around them.
The other two are tiredness and frustration, which tend to be easily spotted.
‘Little ones seem to have boundless energy, but every parent of a toddler knows that if they skip a nap or a ‘quiet time,’ their little darling will turn rogue,’ FitzD said.
‘Whilst they might be able to tolerate you are wrestling them into their coat if they’re well rested, try that same move when they’re sleep-deprived, and you’re likely to be locked into a miserable mayhem for the next hour.
‘Tots can just about manage a little hunger or tiredness but shove frustration into the mix, and your child will simply be pushed into overwhelm.’
And while you may lose hope when you see your little one start to clench their tiny fists, there are ways to minimize the inevitable outburst.
Always best to try and head a meltdown off at the pass by ensuring your child has plenty of access to healthy nutritious snacks to stave off those ‘hangry’ outbursts,’ FitzD said.
‘[Also make sure they are] given regular opportunities for zone-out rest time and that you allow your tots, kids and teens plenty of independence and autonomy.
‘Sure, there will be times when it’s simply not appropriate to let your child do things for themselves, but really try and minimize those times – you’ll also save yourself a lot of work!
‘If you see a meltdown bubbling, then use your cunning to distract and redirect little ones and, with older ones, gently point out that you can see their frustration and ask them what would help – putting finding the solution in their hands helps them to learn how to self-regulate and to discover their own coping strategies.’
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