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Temper Tantrums

Updated: Jan 16

Featured on the Hong Kong Economic Journal (October 18, 2018)


One of the common questions we get asked is how to help a child who has temper tantrums or outbursts of anger. It can be so frustrating for parents who have to deal with a wailing toddler or an angry school-goer and they are desperate to find ways to help their children. Helping a child develop self-control and to identify, regulate and responsibly express an emotion is a complex task for a young child. So we’ve compiled a list of things that can be helpful for a parent to consider. Some are preventative measures and some are interventional and can be tried in age appropriate ways.


1. Stay calm


Probably the most difficult thing to do for parents but also the most important. When a child is acting out, the first part of the antidote is to counter the reaction and stay calm. When my son was born, I gave myself a personal challenge that I would counter his emotions when he was upset so the more upset he gets, the more calm I get. It helps the child calm down too as opposed to getting riled up. I think one of the worst things to do is to get angry and use threats to get a child to calm down. For example, I have heard parents shout at their angry child “If you don’t stop now, I’ll leave you here in the shopping mall by yourself”. That kind of comment never adds a calming effect to a child! And once your child realizes you’re giving empty threats, then even worse. So stay calm.


2. Distraction


When a child is a young (2 and below), sometimes distractions are the best way to help them calm down. They usually don’t have the capacity to regulate their own emotions so it’d done externally by using distractions. This could be asking them to look at something (look! There’s a police car!) or by moving to the next activity (okay, calm down and let’s go to the park and get some fresh air). Eventually they will have to learn how to calm down on their own which leads to the next point.


3. Re-direction


This isn’t about distracting your child but about helping him find a way that helps him calm down. Feeling negative emotions isn’t bad but sometimes it leads to bad behaviours (i.e. saying or doing things that are hurtful or harmful). Every child is different and needs something different to help him calm down. So let your child try different things to calm down. Here’s a list you can try:

  • Take deep breaths

  • Take a break (e.g. go to toilet)

  • Go for a run

  • Listen to music

  • Read a book

  • Have a hug

  • Punch a pillow

  • Look at a calm down glitter jar

  • Write in a journal

  • Talk to a friend


4. Getting to the root


It’s important to know what the root of the issue is. Is your child acting out because he is being bullied at school or at home? Is he throwing a tantrum because he is struggling with something he wants to but can’t do? Asking questions when your child is calm can give you clues on why your child is acting up.


5. Know the trigger


If the tantrums are a regular thing, it’s helpful to figure out what the triggers could be. Is it when your child is hungry or tired? When he’s playing with a particular friend? When he’s put in new and unfamiliar situations? Knowing the trigger can help you plan for it. For example, I know my son doesn’t do well when he’s tired and is more likely to get upset when he’s sleepy so I have to make sure he is well rested.


6. Build emotional awareness


Overall, it’s helpful to develop emotional awareness in children so that they know about different emotions, know how to identify theirs and others and ultimately learn how to regulate them. This starts by reading books about emotions, discussing different emotions that you and your child might feel in different situations (“I was so surprised when you brought out the birthday cake for me” or “I think Tommy was feeling sad when he lost his toy”) and making ‘emotions talk’ a part of daily life.


Although none of us like having a child throw tantrums, that’s sometimes their way of communicating their needs with us. We have to let our children know that having different emotions including being angry is okay but it’s not okay to physically or emotionally hurt themselves or others in the process. And ultimately to minimize temper tantrums for the good of everyone!


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脾氣寶寶


其中一條我們最常被問到問題就是如何幫助脾氣暴躁的小朋友,面對家中哭哭啼啼的幼兒或愛發脾氣的孩子,不少父母都會感到洩氣,渴望找到方法幫助他們。對於幼兒而言,要他們控制、辨識、管理、好好地表達自己的情緒是一項複雜且困難的任務,故此我們整合了一系列方法幫助父母,當中包括預防及介入性措施,家長可根據孩子年齡嘗試各種方法。


1. 保持冷靜


這對父母來說或許是最難、卻是最重要的一點。當孩子發脾氣時,父母首要做的是轉換情緒及保持冷靜。兒子出生時,我給了自己一個挑戰,就是在他傷心難過時轉換他的情緒,他愈哭鬧,我就要愈冷靜,這亦有助孩子冷靜下來。當孩子發脾氣時,我覺得最差的對待方式就是跟孩子一起發脾氣、繼而恐嚇他們,例如我曾聽過一些父母對著孩子大吼大叫說:「你繼續哭鬧的話,我就會把你留在商場裡。」這種話無助孩子冷靜,而當他們意識到父母只是空口說白話時,他們下次或會更為失控,故此家長務必要保持冷靜。


2. 轉移視線


年紀尚小(兩歲或以下)的孩子一般還沒有能力控制情緒,有時候幫助他們冷靜的最好方法就是轉移視線,例如叫他們看看四周的事物(看看那一輛警車!)或者進行下一個活動(好了,先冷靜,我們一起公園呼吸新鮮空氣吧),他們久而久之就會學會冷靜的方法,


3. 重新引導


重新引導孩子並不是轉移他們的視線,而是幫助他們尋找冷靜的方法。負面情緒其實不一定負面的,但有時候卻會導致一些負面行為(即講出或作出一些傷害別人的行為)。每個小朋友的性格都不同,他們冷靜自己的方法亦會有所不同。我們可以讓孩子嘗試不同方式冷靜自己,以下是一些建議;

  • 深呼吸

  • 休息一下(例如去洗手間)

  • 去跑步

  • 聽音樂

  • 看書

  • 擁抱

  • 打枕頭

  • 觀看「冷靜瓶」

  • 寫周記

  • 與朋友聊天


4. 尋找根源


找出問題的根源尤其重要,孩子感到憤怒的原因是因為他被同學或兄弟姐妹欺凌嗎?他發脾氣是因為他想完成某些事但能力不足嗎?嘗試在你的孩子冷靜下來後,好好跟他傾談一下,這或許能給你一些頭緒。


5. 了解觸發點


如果孩子常發脾氣,家長可以嘗試了解什麼觸發他們的情緒。是當你的孩子感到肚餓或疲倦嗎?當他跟某個朋友玩的時候?還是當他進入一個新和不熟悉的環境?了解孩子發脾氣的觸發點能讓你及早作好準備,例如我的兒子感到疲累時會狀態不佳,或在困倦的時候容易感到不開心,故此我需要做的是保證他有足夠休息。


6. 建立對情緒的意識


總括而言,最重要的是幫助孩子建立對情緒的意識,讓他們辨識及管理各種情緒。這可從閲讀有關情緒的書籍開始,跟孩子討論你和他在不同場合時的感受(例如「我很驚訝你買了一個生日蛋糕給我」或「小米弄丟了他的玩具,我想他一定感到很不開心」),把「情緒對話」成為生活的一部分。


縱然沒有人希望自己的孩子愛發脾氣,但有時候這是他們跟我們表達自己需要的途徑。我們要讓孩子知道擁有不同情緒、會感到憤怒是正常不過的事。然而,過程中我們不能對自己和其他人作出身體或情感上的傷害 ,而為著所有人著想,最理想的當然還是減少發脾氣!


2018年10月18日(香港經濟日報)



#Identity #Self-control