Coping with Tantrums
by: Ben Sidman
Tantrums are never easy to deal with and push parents to
their limits of patients. It often seems to be that parents of
children with social difficulties have a harder job because
tantrums are either more frequent, unpredictable or harder to
bring under control.
Children with social difficulties can be very difficult to
calm down when they have a tantrum because they have less of an
understanding of things going on around them. This makes things
like discipline very difficult because you are constantly weary
that saying ‘no’ to even the slightest of things can develop
into a dramatic tantrum.
Certainly the tantrums are less predictable or triggered by
what people would generally consider ‘no big deal’. This means
that when your child has a tantrum over something very slight
such as a meal they don’t like, it becomes very difficult for
parents and carers to sympathise and empathise. To you it is a
perfectly reasonable thing to cope with.
When a tantrum does occur, it can be very difficult to bring
under control. Parents can be left feeling shocked by the
length of time a tantrum has lasted or by the amount of
anxiety, frustration or aggression the child was feeling. Most
of all, it can be very disheartening to see their apparent lack
of being able to reach their own child to calm them down.
Another difficulty parents have is when they are in public
places and their child has a tantrum, it is staggering to see
other people looking at disgust at the parents who are
immediately branded as bad parents to let their child get to
Its not only members of the public but also uninformed
professionals and medical practitioners who believe children
are always a result of their parents.
Causes of Tantrums
Although it may feel that children with social difficulties
have tantrums at the slightest problem, the causes of their
tantrums can be a little more complex than it first appears.
Tantrums are a product of some form of frustration, anxiety,
anger etc. The causes of these behaviors can be extremely
Some children have tantrums because they are unable to
communicate what they want or express their feelings in any
other way. Furthermore, they may have difficulty in
understanding what they are being told. The use of picture
cards may help overcome some of these problems. It is also
essential to keep your language clear and brief and to emphasis
Some children have great difficulty with their senses such
as the feel of their clothes, the taste of their food. These
uncomfortable senses make them feel uneasy and lead to built up
stress if they cannot sort the problem out themselves.
Some causes of anxiety come from activities or planned
events they have had problems with in the past. For example,
the tennis teacher made them feel uncomfortable and knowing
they have to go again causes them distress.
Problems can also occur from lack of sleep, a drop in their
blood-sugar levels, an allergy to certain foods and the list
goes on and on.
Parents and carers must also remember that most of the time
their children do not realise themselves what is causing them
to feel uncomfortable
What to do
Try to get as much information as possible when tantrums
happen. Try to think of all the things that may have been the
cause. Try talking to others e.g. teachers or other carers for
the child to see what their experiences were and if there are
any common issues that could lead to tantrums.
The best thing to encourage is communication to get the
child to tell you or indicate in some way what they think is
causing them distress. Try to coach them into knowing when
something is making them feel bad. Then help them to tell you
and give you the chance to sort it out first.
If a child is non-verbal it would be helpful to teach a
child to initially point or take an adult's hand to items they
want. This will reduce the frustration of not having some of
their needs met. This will also help if they can point to
things that are distressing them.
Don’t underestimate the value of support groups close to
you. Parents should feel comfort in there being many thousands
of other parents that understand what you have to deal with.
Often talking to other parents with children with social
difficulties helps a lot so that you can see you are not the
only one. It helps when you are out in public places and other
people see you dealing with a child with social difficulties
obviously don’t understand the difficulty
About The Author
Ben Sidman is a Parent of an amazing
autistic child and founder of http://www.autism-support-community.com
- an informative and friendly web site for
parents with autistic children.