Temper tantrums are a normal and common aspect of childhood development for a young child. We are all familiar with the “terrible twos”, but what if these behaviors are more severe or persist beyond the early childhood years? According to the National Survey of Children’s Health, one out of seven children ages two to eight years old have been diagnosed with a mental, behavioral or development disorder.
As children begin to develop their language skills, they often express how they are feeling through their behavior such as falling to the ground, crying, screaming, kicking, hitting and biting when they are not feeling understood or that their wants and needs are not being met.
Navigating challenging behaviors and heightened emotions can be tricky to decipher from the typical developmental milestones. Jill Brown, LCSW-C, director of Parent-Child Clinical Services for the Lourie Center for Children’s Social & Emotional Wellness, suggests “If a child’s behavior causes significant distress, interferes with the child’s functioning in daily tasks, or puts them at risk of harm to themselves or others, consult a children’s mental health professional.”
The Parent-Child Clinical Services Program at the Lourie Center for Children’s Social & Emotional Wellness (Lourie Center) offers a comprehensive approach to the early identification, treatment and prevention of emotional, behavioral and developmental problems in infants, young children and their families.
Pay Attention to Signs
Jill shares that during a tantrum, it can be important to think about what your child may be trying to communicate through their behavior. Pay attention to the following signs:
- Is your child tired or hungry?
- Is their clothing comfortable? Are they hot or cold?
- Are they trying to be independent or have some control within their environment?
- Are they having difficulty completing a task?
Thinking about your child’s internal experience and what they may be trying to express during the tantrum can guide you on how best to response to these behaviors. Children are often seeking reassurance and support from adults when under distress as they become overwhelmed and are unable to manage these feelings on their own.