Today, I’m privileged to have a guest here on Mommy Cafe! Karyn Van Der Zwet is my friend from the World Moms Blog. She is a teacher, published author and mom of three young children living in the beautiful country of New Zealand.
When I found out about a research she did on tantrums for an upcoming book, I thought it would be great to have her share some insights with our readers here.
Many of us think of tantrums as being just that: tantrums, but did you know there are more than 30 different kinds? Luckily all these can be separated into two general groups: those which can usually be avoided or easily managed when they do happen, and others which can help us to reflect on our behaviour or beliefs. Here are a few examples.
Low Blood-Sugar tantrums happen when food is processed too fast by our bodies and we have used up all the energy stored in our liver. By feeding our children healthy food, before they are hungry, in small and regular amounts we can avoid low-blood sugar tantrums. Another useful strategy is to include a small amount of healthy fat (from a few amount of nuts, olives or a little avocado) and protein each time our children eat. While high-protein are no healthier than low-protein diets, spreading our children’s protein intake throughout the day helps them to keep their blood-sugar levels even.
Sleep Deprivation Tantrums happen when children do not have regular and early bedtimes. By keeping our children’s bedtimes as early and constant as possible, we ensure their natural body-clocks can work at their optimal level. These internal body-clocks also direct when they go through puberty and how fast we, as adults, age. (Although healthy sleep patterns are only part of this process.) The effect of changing sleep times on the human brain is similar to that of jet-lag, with it taking up to three days for our brains to calm after a late night.
Children who are moving from a single daily nap to no daytime nap, find it difficult to maintain a constant sleep pattern. During this period of a year (or sometimes longer) we can avoid tantrums by respecting their biological drive to stay up later than we would otherwise like them to, all the while expecting they will return to an early bedtime on those days they do not nap, and expecting they will return to early bedtimes once this period has ended.
Overwhelmed Tantrums happen when our children find their world too noisy, bright, crowded or fast for them to manage. It can be difficult for us as adults to find the balance of calm versus busy-ness and the brains of our children find it even more difficult. As adults we have (to a certain extent) learned to numb ourselves to these things but we can forget that our children do not yet have this ability. Often children will tantrum because they are simply overwhelmed by noise or bright lights (often from music or electronic and battery-run toys or games) or they have been too busy or had to deal with a larger crowd than they enjoy.
Children with an Owl temperament can be very clingy or stubborn when they are overwhelmed. Children with a Hare temperament can become violent or threaten to become violent. Children with a Tortoise temperament will agree to do anything we ask them to do, but will procrastinate if they feel overwhelmed. Children with a Butterfly temperament become very silly and speak rapidly or in baby-talk when they are finding their world too much to manage.
Whatever temperament our children are born with, they show they are distressed through their behaviour not their words. Sometimes they don’t show their stress at the time but show they have been distressed once they feel safe again.
Some tantrums are not preventable and are in fact useful for our children. When we set reasonable boundaries around food and bedtimes or we say, ‘No’ to buying another toy or expect our children to apologise when they have wronged someone else, then we help our children to consciously reflect on their world. If we can manage to hold the boundary and not engage in their dramas (by understanding their distress but not trying to negotiate or reason with them), we help our children develop a healthy conscience and to grow into properly mature and considerate adults.
Want to find out more about tantrums? Karyn’s new book, ALL ABOUT TANTRUMS: Why We Have Them, How To Prevent Them, What To Do When They Happen, is due out November 2012. Karyn is also the author of WHY PEOPLE DRIVE YOU CRAZY: Part One, A Fresh Look At Temperament, which clearly explains temperament from a scientific point of view. The book is available for purchase at Create Space. Karyn has her own blog at Kloppenmum and sometimes writes for the World Moms Blog.