MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Every parent has been there. You’re out in public, your child starts screaming and ends up flailing on the ground.
It’s the dreaded tantrum.
Even Prince William and Duchess Kate experienced it last weekend when 2-year-old Princess Charlotte had enough of their whirlwind European trip.
It’s a natural part of maturing, but why do kids have tantrums?
“Every child tantrums, it’s a developmental stage, it’s something they’re working through,” said Meghan Miller, a child and adolescent psychologist with Allina Health. “Being able to express your emotions is a skill. It’s like riding a bike. We can’t expect our kids to just know it right off the bat.”
Miller is also a mother to two young boys, so she is quite experienced with dealing with tantrums in her own home. She says even though some parents might feel like it, tantrums are not a reflection of bad parenting.
Adults process emotions in the front part of the brain, called the prefrontal cortex. That area is not matured until adolescence and beyond. Children tend to process what’s happened in the center of the brain, called the amygdala – which is the emotion center.
Therefore, tantrums are one way children use to express themselves when they don’t have the words.
“It’s kind of our animal selves, and it helps us,” Miller said. “We’re supposed to be anxious. It helps us detect danger and helps us stay away from things that might not be good for us.”
Kids are also built to use their imagination, which helps them learn.
“Fostering that creative thought is really great, and sometimes their imagination leads them to a misconstrued thought, like I might go down the toilet, or I might go down the drain,” Miller says. “A little education helps them understand that might not be the case.”
During a tantrum, Miller recommends talking calmly with your children at their eye-level. She says you can also give them time to themselves, but you shouldn’t leave them entirely alone.
In the long run, though, she says structure, consistency and modeling good behavior will help with controlling tantrums.