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Tempering Tantrums

Over-the-top tantrums may indicate deeper emotional trouble in young children, according to a new report in the January 2008 Journal of Pediatrics. Although temper tantrums are a normal part of growing up for most tots, healthy kids tend to have less aggressive and shorter tantrums than children with depression or other mental disorders.

Warning signs cited in the study include aggressive behavior during tantrums; intentional self-harming (such as head banging); five or more tantrums per day; tantrums longer than 25 minutes; and an inability to calm down after a tantrum. If you regularly spot these red flags, check in with your child’s healthcare provider.

For more routine boilovers, help your child define and express what she feels inside. “Provide a validation of their upset and explain that disappointments are a normal part of life,” counsels Dr. Urszula Kelley, a psychiatrist with Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas. “It helps your child recognize what’s going on and develop a knowledge of themselves, and, later, a knowledge of what’s happening with other people.”