Temper tantrums of any frequency are also a sign that it is wise to stop and try to discover what is upsetting a child so deeply. Temper tantrums are much more frequent in small children than in older ones. They are usually an indication that the child is trying to do something he is not able to do, that his play has been too suddenly interfered with, that too many demands have been put upon him, or that he is constantly being frustrated or thwarted. It is often helpful for mother to think back over the last twenty-four hours and list the things that might have disturbed him or put too much pressure on him. If these lists are compared over a week or two, it will sometimes be quite startling to see that certain situations have appeared time and again before a tantrum started.
When the temper is in process it is usually better not to try to quiet the child. Mother should sit quietly and wait, or continue whatever she was doing as long as she does not go far away or out of sight. When it is over, and with little children tempers do not usually last long, a comforting arm, a gentle washing of the face, and perhaps a drink of fruit juice will help the child to get control of himself again. Then his attention should be turned to something he likes to do. The child has punished himself enough with his tantrum. Ignoring it will not spoil him as long as he is not given the thing he was demanding or is not excused from doing what was asked when the tantrum began. By giving attention and kindliness when the tantrum is over, his mother can help him rebuild his much-needed confidence in himself.
Head-banging and breath-holding
Head-banging and breath-holding are particularly frightening tantrums for a parent. A child will rarely harm himself at such times and it is still wisest not to interfere, for interference in most cases only makes the child angrier. But head-banging and breath-holding are, even more than ordinary tantrums, a sign that something is deeply upsetting the child. Such outbursts will occur less and less often as the parents are able to find the cause of the pressure. (Continue below to page