QWhat are the root causes that could lead a child to develop temper tantrums accompanied with physical aggression at a very young age ?
Temper tantrums in themselves are not abnormal or even unusual. The terrible twos and threes are well known to seasoned parents! However if these tantrums are destructive or persist beyond a certain age, then it is a cause for concern.
The main causes related to this are temperamental factors on one hand and environmental factors on the other.
Some children are endowed with a difficult temperament that makes them difficult to sooth. They could also be demanding. Early tantrums could also be signs of disorders such as Autism, or a trajectory towards other disorders such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. The temper tantrums of special needs children may be related to sensory needs and may not be a part of bad behaviour. These episodes are sometimes called meltdowns, to differentiate them from temper tantrums. However it is important to emphasise that most children with temper tantrums do not have other associated disorders or conditions. Environmental factors could be found in the living space the child lives and plays in. If the child is not able to explore his environment and is restricted, this may lead to frustration. A chaotic relational environment where the child does not have at least one secure caregiver could also lead to behavioral problems. The other major environmental factor would be how parents and other significant adults respond to temper tantrums. Thus, if parents respond to a tantrum, for example by giving an ice cream that was initially refused, that behavior will be reinforced!
QHow could parents address this problem if these characteristics are evident in their children?
If a condition mentioned above is suspected, it is important to seek help, as most of these conditions benefit from early identification and intervention.
One very important aspect of managing tantrums is to identify its function. For example, if the child is upset because he or she feels insecure, no amount of ignoring his behaviour will help. On the other hand, if what the child wants from their bad behaviour is given to appease him or to punish him- for example, where a child wants to leave his class and is ‘punished’ by being sent out of the class, the teacher may be unknowingly reinforcing the child’s behaviour.
If the temper tantrum is being used to get something the child wants, it is best not to pay attention to it. It is also important to keep in mind that ignoring this behaviour will likely make it escalate before subsiding. When you start responding differently, a behaviour that has been present for sometime is unlikely to go away all at once. As it has been reinforced for a long time, it is important to make sure the child is not in public when you correct him.
The other aspect of this approach is that parents also need to pay attention and positively reward the child when he is not throwing a tantrum. This is done so that the child’s bad behaviour is discouraged and good behaviour is reinforced. It is also important that parents spend adequate time with their children and engage in play and other activities with them.
Finally, temper tantrums can be complicated and difficult to control. If they are extreme, it is best to seek help.