Temper tantrums are normal in children around two years of age. They are not normal, nor welcome, in adults, yet if not stopped when they begin there is a chance that they will continue into adulthood.
Children who cannot express their needs verbally or those who don’t get what they want will act out by having temper tantrums. Many of us have experienced them either in their own children or in children of others. I had a fifth grader have one in my office today when he was told his mom no longer had the money to pay his $45 monthly cell phone charge. Before it was over he was banging his head on the wall. Thankfully, his mom is working on his issues with him, and she ignored his behavior until he quit.
Yes, it’s as simple as ignoring the behavior to get it to stop. Kicking, screaming, and head banging that is ignored will eventually stop if there is no reward. It is a test of who can hold out the longest. Parents I have worked with during the years who learn this come back to report that the tantrums are gone. Sure, there are times the child may try a new type behavior, but eventually just ignoring it will make the behaviors stop. After all would you keep hurting yourself if there was no reward?
The problem arises when parents fold. They may be out in public, or just get tired of hearing the tantrum. When out in public it may be necessary to remove the child from the place you are in. It may even be necessary to park a grocery cart by the manager’s desk to come back for later, but the child should not “win” by getting what they want.
Giving in to an unruly child who is having a tantrum teaches them that if they act out long enough they will get what they want. This learned behavior will continue with age. Ever seen an adult bang their head on the wall? It happens. In adults we call this anger outbursts, but I’ll bet if you talk with these adults when they are calm you will find that a large number of them had tantrums from childhood.