How to Deal with Your Anxious Child’s Temper Tantrums

Deal with tantrumWhether your anxious kid wants a particular toy or is suffering from a bout of separation anxiety, sooner or later you’re going to have to deal with a temper tantrum. Although the updated DSM-5 has classified frequent and recurring tantrums as an actual disorder, temper tantrums remain a “normal” part of growing up. Read more about the classification in our DSM-5 tantrum post or our complete guide to the DSM-5.

Temper tantrums are frequently a result of a kid not getting what he wants, although children with anxiety issues may have additional reasons for throwing a fit, according to a report published in Early Childhood Research and Practice. The study notes:

“…Anxiety is one of many variables that are related to tantrums, and these findings imply that parents and caregivers should consider that a tantrum might reflect a child’s underlying anxiety, confusion, or stress, in addition to or instead of willful opposition.”

Knowing the cause of the tantrum can help immensely, especially since points out that the best way to deal with tantrums is to prevent them in the first place. Since prevention and avoidance is not always possible, the site also offers helpful tips.

Temper Tantrum Dos

Do try to find the underlying cause. In addition to erupting from anxiety, the tantrum may have stemmed from the situation at hand, such as not getting that new toy. Or it could be a ploy to get attention your anxious child may feel she is lacking. Lack of sleep makes for cranky children, which you can fix with some tips from our post on improving your anxious child’s sleep.

Do use distraction. Children’s attention spans are generally shorter than a fruit fly’s life cycle. Take advantage of this by giving your kid something else to play with, think about, or do. Move him to a different room or take her outside.

Do give your anxious child control over small matters. KidsHealth says tantrum can come from a child’s yearning for independence, so give them a bit of it in feasible situations. Let them choose between apple or orange juice or if they’d rather brush their teeth before or after bath time.

Choose your battles. If you see a tantrum about to bubble to the surface, if the child’s request is feasible, you may want to honor it. You must do this, however, before you say no or your child can assume her tantrum made you give in and be inclined to repeat the behavior going forward to get what she wants.

Know your anxious child’s limits. If five hours at the mall makes him irritable, slim down your outings to accommodate.

Temper Tantrum Don’t

Don’t go for spanking or hitting. Corporal punishment is so passé and will get you big glares in the supermarket. Witnesses may go as far to berate you or call child protective services. Besides, your anxious child learns by your example and you don’t want to set an example that battery is an acceptable way to deal with things. Love and understanding always works more effectively in the long run for everyone.