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Dec 5, 2011
02:52 PM

Scientists: To Stop a Tantrum, Do Nothing

Scientists: To Stop a Tantrum, Do Nothing

A research group has dissected an often heard but rarely studied child phenomenon: the tantrum. Their report, published in the journal Emotion, is called "Screaming, yelling, whining, and crying: Categorical and intensity differences in vocal expressions of anger and sadness in children's tantrums."

"We have the most quantitative theory of tantrums that has ever been developed in the history of humankind,"  study co-author Michael Potegal of the University of Minnesota told NPR.

How did the scientists observe their shrieking subjects? "We developed a onesie that toddlers can wear that has a high-quality wireless microphone sewn into it," explained co-author James A. Green of the University of Connecticut. "Parents put this onesie on the child and press a go button."

Related Article: Why Is My Child So Angry?

"Screaming and yelling and kicking often go together," Potegal told NPR. "Throwing things and pulling and pushing things tend to go together. Combinations of crying, whining, falling to the floor and seeking comfort —  these also hang together....The impression that tantrums have two stages is incorrect. In fact,  anger and the sadness are more or less simultaneous."

Potegal said way to end a tantrum is to get a child past the peaks of anger — by doing nothing. Even asking questions can prolong the anger. Potegal observed that once anger subsides, tantruming toddlers reach out for comfort.

NPR.org video


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