Anger and Temper Tantrums

Is it anger when a newborn baby screams loudly with hunger? We can't ask her. We can only guess. I think it's close to anger—this feeling of red-facecl fury over being hungry or crying with colic. But it's different from the anger of later childhood in that it's not directed at anyone in particular. The recognition of another person as distinct from oneself only begins in the middle of the first year.

For most children, it's between one and two years when temper tantrums appear. Children have become mature enough to have wishes and wills of their own, and they become angry when their mothers, fathers, or other caregivers interfere with their desires. But it's interesting that they are still not ready to direct their anger at their parents in the sense of hitting or biting, though at the same age they may bite another child who takes their toy. It's clear that there is still an inhibition against attacking the person who takes care of them. It's as if they've heard and take seriously the old proverb "Don't bite the hand that feeds you. ''

At the moment of a temper tantrum, they know who they are mad at all right, but they take it out on themselves by banging their heads against the floor.

I think it's wise to try to hold temper tantrums to a minimum, as long as you don't give in to unreasonable demands. The child's temperament will have some influence. Some one-year-olds, though they may be good-natured in other respects, have fiery tempers when frustrated, others are unusually obstinate and just hate to give in. These types are harder to deal with during this period of primitive feelings and minimal self-control.

The first principle is not to back down just because the child is raising a nimpus. For if you do, she'll catch on that tantrums get her what she wants and she may use them more and more deliberately.

On the other hand it's even more Important that you not provoke the child unnecessarily and that when a tantrum comes, you help the child to get over it as soon as possible.

I'll always remember Mrs. Jenkins, the mother of one of my first pediatric patients. She called me in tears because her one-and-one-fourth-year-old son had

"turned into a devil,' doing the very opposite of whatever she asked. If she insisted, he'd throw a tantrum. I made a home visit and while we were talking, Ronnie toddled into the room. His mother said in a stem tone, "Don't touch the radio." (There was no TV then but Ronnie loved to twirl the knobs of the radio.) Hp had had no idea of touching the radio when he came into the room. He stood there looking her squarely in the eye for a full minute. She repeated the warning. Then slowly, slowly he moved sideways toward the radio.

Mrs. Jenkins feared from the first signs of his independence that she would lose control. In her anxiety, she brought on the very battle of wills that she dreaded. She raised issues that didn't need to be raised, shouldn't be raised. Ronnie, feeling challenged, asked himself: Am I a mouse or am I a self-respecting man? It's good that he had the impulse to ask for some rights and choices. He would have to have them to grow up. But his mother, being older and smarter, needed to be tactful, needed to be careful not to antagonize him with a lot of prohibitions, especially unnecessary ones.

If the radio was a problem, she should have set it on something high or locked it in a cabinet. In fact this is the age for "childprooflng" the entire house, putting all dangerous objects, medicines, household cleaning products, and precious breakables safely out of reach. Breakables can be brought back at a later time, after the child has learned to respect requests. Jam books and current magazines so tight in bookshelves that they can't be pried loose. Leave pots, pans, blunt kitchen utensils where they can be taken out of cabinets, played with safely, and put back. (Taking out and putting back are fascinating activities and learning experiences at this age.) Empty cartons are as good as wagons for pushing around, and they don't nick the furniture.

If something dangerous or breakable gets Ipft out by mistake and the child goes for it, distract him with something else. Have a music box or other machine that's used just for distraction and nothing else. There are a few things that can't be removed such as lamps on tables that you'll have to make "no-nos," perhaps by removing the child. Don't count on no-nos alone. Remove the object or the child and add no-no for emphasis.

How to help a child out of a tantnim has to be learned separately for each child. One child will keep trying and banging his head until his mother makes a peace gesture such as a suggestion that they go shopping or to a playground. Another child will sustain the tantrum as long as the parent stays in view but quiets down when left alone.

By three years and older, a child is much more consciously aware of what's going on between her and her parent. She has the language ability to ask for what she wants, to understand her parent who is explaining what can or can't be done. She will have developed trust—if it's justified—that her parent will give her what is reasonable, or have a reasonable explanation when she can't. So child anger is now no longer a half-blind explosion but comes out of a rational or rationalized indignation over feeling unfairly treated.

Baby Sleeping

Baby Sleeping

Everything You Need To Know About Baby Sleeping. Your baby is going to be sleeping a lot. During the first few months, your baby will sleep for most of theday. You may not get any real interaction, or reactions other than sleep and crying.

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