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Stop Tantrums Before They Start

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By Dr. Howard Bennett   Print
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Tantrums are a normal in toddlers. Although it is not always clear what sets them off, there are four circumstances that most commonly elicit outbursts in this age group. In order to help you remember these triggers, I came up with the following acronym, FACT. If you keep these “facts” in mind, you may be able to prevent tantrums before they begin.

Frustration: Toddlers become frustrated numerous times during the day. The most common triggers are not getting their way, having difficulty completing a task, or not being able to communicate due to immature language skills.

Appetite (hunger): Young children are often unaware of their body’s hunger cues and may have a “meltdown” simply because they need a snack.

Choice: Young children may have difficulty transitioning from one activity to the next and are frequently held captive to other people’s schedules, i.e., they are asked to get dressed, eat meals, or leave the house with little say in the matter. Parents can prevent problems by giving children a couple of warnings before transitions occur and by offering choices whenever possible. For example, if your child does not want to get dressed, you may be able to avoid a struggle by saying, “Do you want to wear your green socks or your red socks?”

Tired: Tantrums are often triggered because a child needs a nap, did not get enough sleep the night before, or because he is tired due to an illness. If you see this behavior, comfort your child or encourage him to take a nap.

Howard J. Bennett, M.D.

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