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May 12, 2011

Healthy Living solves a temper tantrum

Kicking and screaming, incessant ranting and stubbornness; those are just a few behavioral problems of children throwing temper tantrums so adults cave in and allow them to have their own way. It’s frustrating for parents or other caretakers to handle these situations, so this week’s Healthy Living hopes to provide the solution to the temper tantrums. Pediatrician, Dr. Cecilio Eck, says it’s a natural phase that kids go through.

Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

Tantrums. You don’t have to be a parent or a teacher to know a thing or two about them. It’s not a medical condition but a natural part of the development of children and a cause of headaches and anxiety among parents. Are the sudden anger fits normal for a child? We checked in with pediatrician Dr Cecilio Eck to find out more.

Dr Cecilio Eck, Pediatrician

“What a temper tantrum is an issue when a child can’t express his or her anger appropriately and that usually happens because of immaturity. So it’s an immature expression of anger.  Classically it can be seen between the ages of twelve months to eighteen months. It peaks during the terrible two’s between two to three and then it gradually declines afterward.”

Cecilio Eck

Eck explains that the inability to communicate their feeling is what typically causes children to have tantrums.

Dr Cecilio Eck

“At this time in the child’s development, the children at this age are trying to seek their own independence, they’re trying to do things for themselves and when they become frustrated when they can’t express themselves verbally properly or when something is too difficult for their fine motor skills that is when they express this rage and they can’t express their rage maturely like me and you. That is a temper tantrum.”

Most parents manage their children’s behavior on their own. As a part of his well-child care approach, Dr. Eck, usually advises parents before and during this phase. The number one point he makes is that parents need not blame themselves.

Dr Cecilio Eck

“One, they are not a bad parent; their child is not a bad child and it is not the child’s fault. It is a natural developmental phase that most kids go through. Depending on the temperament of the child will determine how badly the temper tantrums are expressed. Some kids have none. Some kids from the get go from twp, four, six months you realize that this child will have problems down the road. We do that when a child is tired or when a child is hungry, when they are sick that you can expect more temper tantrums at the stage. So the first thing is to make sure your child is properly fed, not sleepy  and not sick and when they are sick, as my in-laws would say you can baby-fy them a bit more. But the problem is that with some kids and their temperament. No matter what you do, it will happen.”

Like most medical conditions, the best way to deal with tantrums is to prevent them. Avoiding sticky situations where you can: like if the child is tired or sick and also to reward positive behavior. This doesn’t make life tantrum free; so when in the moment itself: ignore, ignore, ignore.

Dr Cecilio Eck

“The worst thing you can do is propagate the behavior. I was at Playa the other day. There were two parents sitting by the pool. Two kids having temper tantrum and both of them are between the ages of two to three. One of them did the wrong thing, the mom tried to coax the child to come in the pool. And she gave in the ball and the kid, because of the attention that he got, cried and cried  and then thing went on for a half hour more. The other one, he wanted to play in the sand, they literally got up and left the child. The child realized there was no more audience so he got up and followed them, stopped what he was doing picked up his stuff and follow and that’s the main thing. If a child is doing something, he starts a temper tantrum and he’s not hurting himself, then ignore it.”

Of course, if the child is hurting him or herself or disturbing others then move them away from situation and try distracting them. Don’t give in because he will understand that to mean his behavior works in getting him what he wants and causes it to become repetitive. Dr Eck explains that by one and a half your child is fully capable of understanding this.

Dr Cecilio Eck

“Yes, at age eighteen months to two years they begin to know what’s right or wrong. We try to distract them as much as possible after age two timeout works well…youngest one stays in the corner a lot.”

In extreme cases though, when intervention does not work and the tantrums seem to be excessive then it may be time to check in with your doctor.

Dr Cecilio Eck

“If it occurs any more than five to six times a day, if a child is very, very young. I would say less than a year. Or very old; so by school age it should be out. So if by five, six, seven, eight it shouldn’t be continuous. if you notice any other bad signs, bullying of others, harming of animals, conduct disorders, those are signs of awful things then I would tell you yes you need to visit the pediatrician  and they need to do a proper assessment and let you know if your child needs to be seen by a psychologist or a child psychiatrist.”

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