The Science of Temper Tantrums
December 9, 2011
by Sasha Emmons
© Stephanie Rausser
In the moment that your child is losing his marbles over your very reasonable request to wear pants when he leaves the house, it can feel like he is inventing new and more imaginative ways of tantruming. But a new study shows that temper tantrums involve typical behaviors and actually follow a predictable pattern. And studying that pattern can help us figure out how deal with them better.
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The study, published in the journal Emotions, found that tantrum “vocalizations” (what you experience as sobbing, whining, shrieking, etc) show that sadness occurs throughout a tantrum, with quick bursts of anger punctuating the episode. Researchers at the University of Minnesota and the University of Connecticut conducted their research by wiring a onesie with a recording device and collecting audio of more than 100 meltdowns.
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The scientific recommendation for handling a freak-out? Ignore the behavior until the peaks of anger start to subside, leaving just sadness. Then swoop in to provide comfort.
Have you ever handled a tantrum like this? Do you that method works?