Ask ME: Are ‘Time Out’s good for tantrums?
MEplace psychologist Viktoria Paniotova answers your parenting questions.
I wouldn’t recommend using a Time Out to deal with a tantrum.
When a child is having a tantrum, they’re feeling really bad. Most tantrums commonly occur because toddlers get frustrated easily and have few problem-solving skills. Some have trouble expressing their feelings. Tantrums are also likely to occur when toddlers are hungry, overexcited or exhausted. In moments like these, young children become overwhelmed by really big, strong emotions, and they can’t deal with it.
Now the reason a small child can’t deal with big emotions isn’t because they just don’t want to. Their brains are still developing, and they’re not yet capable of managing these emotions.
So, they need a caring adult to help them to get through the situation and understand their feelings. By implementing a Time Out, you suggest that it’s not OK to feel these emotions. This can lead to the child bottling their emotions, which, in turn, can cause a range of physiological and psychological issues in later life. It can also create a wall between you and your child, as they will feel that they cannot express their feelings to you.
So, what does a child need during a tantrum?
Firstly, they need support, care and love. This shows them that, no matter what, they are loved, and they are allowed to feel the full range of their emotions.
Secondly, it’s really important how you, the adult, respond to these overwhelming emotions. Tantrums are a prime learning time for children, and you are there to model how to respond to these feelings and situations: you are their role model. So, try and remain calm and use a gentle voice. You could offer a hug or an alternative solution. Most importantly, try to empathise with and acknowledge their feelings.
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Psychologist and Content Manager at MEplace
Ed. Lizzie Corscaden
Content Creator at MEplace
Conkbayir, M. (2017). Early childhood and neuroscience: theory, research and implications for practice. Bloomsbury Publishing.