Tantrums show up in children as young as 12 months and while they normally peak at 3 and 4 years of age, in some kids tantrums continue well into 7, 8 and 9 years old.
Tantrums are a normal phase in human development, however, know that there are definitely better ways to deal with them.
Should you wait them out?
The short answer is: no. You can absolutely help your child effectively verbalize their emotions and develop self-soothing techniques that can shorten and eventually eliminate tantrums all together. (Here are tips to help your child through tantrums and our comprehensive kit, Tantrum Fix.)
Why does my child still tantrums?
Older children that continue to tantrum through 6, 7, 8 years old and even older might be relying on them for a variety of reasons:
1. They haven't developed emotional language skills.
2. Tantrums have worked in the past for them to get what they want.
3. Your child is reacting to a hostile or dysfunctional family environment.
How to tame tantrums in older children
To work through your older child's tantrums, we need a simple plan in place:
a. Family meetings
b. Reading together special books designed to address these issues.
c. Working on a plan together
d. Focus on praising the good.
Start introducing the concept of family meetings, ideally once a week. Each member of the family can discuss a challenge they have, and then they can all contribute ideas on how to solve it. You can bring up other topics, rules, etc. and one of them is tantrums. Allow your children to come up with ridiculous ideas - and think of ways you can try them out. Even if you try them for a little while, to prove your point, your own child will realize it isn't such a great idea and you can go back to the drawing board. This will help empower your child to speak up and take ownership on a solution. Try to dig in to ways in which your child can feel better in the heat of the moment, or think of common triggers and ways in which you guys can prevent them (for example, hunger, tiredness, loneliness, etc.).
Even if your child is a bit older and you stopped reading at night, it is a good idea to bring back a good bedtime routine. Bedtime is a great time to reconnect with your child and have heart-to-heart conversations. You can share your own feelings and thoughts first, to help your little one open up their own feelings. Here is a list of books we recommend you read together:
- Listening to My Body: A guide to helping kids understand the connection between their sensations (what the heck are those?) and feelings so that they can get better at figuring out what they need, by Gabi Garcia.
- Cool Down and Work Through Anger (Learning to Get Along®), by Cheri J. Meiners M.Ed.
- Words Are Not for Hurting (Ages 4-7) (Best Behavior Series) by Elizabeth Verdick
Work on a plan together: have your child be a part of the solution, rather than you telling them what to do. If you decide to build together a calming area (an idea we are big fans of over at Tantrum Fix), make sure your child builds it with you - and allow him/her to decorate it and make it unique. You can draw together a behavior chart and leave it visible on your refrigerator's door, so you can praise positive changes and keep your little one motivated.
And speaking of praise... it has been proven that positive praise, even for the smaller changes works far better than hard discipline. Try to make an effort to comment on how well your child is doing and get them excited to improve each day. Have faith in your child and your ability to help modify their behavior - you got this!