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Cause for fits, uncontrollable cry in baby.

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Hello. I'm writing with a question about my 2 and a half year old daughter. She sometimes (about once or twice a day) has a huge fit or tantrum that seems unusual to myself and my wife. Something small (at least to us) will trigger her and she will cry seemingly uncontrollably for several minutes sometimes up to an hour. When I look at her face during this, it looks like she is angry and is trying to let out her anger and emotional stress. In more serious cases, she will start to swipe her face like in a "wiping" motion with both hands, not hitting but a light tapping and then at times she will tug on her hair with all her force and pull out hair. An example of something that might set her off is like trying to put on a clean diaper, or picking up a toy that she had dropped; she wants to leave it in the same position without it being touched. She seems to want things done in a particular way and she is very clear about her preferences. We don't hit her or punish her and only raise our voices when we are just trying to be heard over her loud crying and screaming. In cases where her health is involved we have to be insistent but it sets her off even more. For example, she will poop in her diaper but not want it to be changed. Of course, we can't let her wear a soiled diaper around for an extended period of time. We are wondering if this is just a phase, or if it is something more serious? Is there something that we are doing to cause these fits? Any help is greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Category: Pediatrician

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Category: ICU/ Critical Care Specialist
 26 Doctors Online

Thank you for your query at
I can understand your situation. I would like to reassure you that
these are common behavioral problems in children of this age group. In
fact, it represents a power struggle phase in their lives. This is the
age when children are experimenting with their autonomy and trying to
push the limits of parents. These behavioral manifestations are called
'Temper tantrums'. These are unpleasant and disruptive behaviors or
emotional outbursts. They often occur in response to unmet needs or
desires. Tantrums are more likely to occur in younger children or
others who cannot express their needs or control their emotions when
they are frustrated.

Temper tantrums or 'acting-out' behaviors are natural during early
childhood. It is normal for children to want to be independent as they
learn they are separate persons from their parents. This desire for
control often shows up as saying 'no' often and having tantrums.
Tantrums are worsened by the fact that the child may not have the
vocabulary to express his or her feelings.Tantrums usually begin
around in children 12 to 18 months old. They get worse between age 2
to 3, then decrease until age 4. After age 4, they rarely occur. Being
tired, hungry, or sick, can make tantrums worse or more frequent.

When she has a temper tantrum, it is important that you STAY CALM. It
helps to remember that tantrums are normal. They are definitely not
your fault. You are definitely not a bad parent, and daughter is not a
bad child. Shouting at your child will only make the situation worse.
A quiet, peaceful response and atmosphere, without 'giving in' or
breaking the rules that you set, reduces stress and make both of you
feel better.
You can also try gentle distraction, switching to activities your
child enjoys or making a funny face. If your child has a tantrum away
from home, lead your child to a quiet place, such as the car or a rest
room. Keep your child safe until the tantrum has ended.

Temper tantrums are an attention-seeking behavior. One strategy to
minimize the length and severity of the tantrum is to ignore the
behavior. I personally advise the 'TIME OUT' strategy. Once she throws
a tantrum, ensure that she is taken to a safe environment (so that
there is nothing around her that can hurt her, like the sharp edge of
a table, etc.), preferably a room where no one is around. Leave her
there and walk out. Do not respond to her till the behavior continues.
After she stops the tantrum, give her something she likes. Impress
upon her that as long as that behavior persists you would not bother
to even look at her. If your child is safe and not being destructive,
going to another room in the house may shorten the episode because now
the drama has no audience. Your child may follow and continue the
tantrum. If so, do not talk or react until the behavior stops. Then,
calmly discuss the issue and offer alternatives without giving in to
your child's demand.

Make sure that your child eats and sleeps at his or her usual times.
If your child no longer takes a nap, ensure that he or she still has
some quiet time. Lying down for 15 to 20 minutes or resting while you
read stories together at regular times of the day can help prevent

Other methods to prevent tantrums include: Use an upbeat tone when
asking your child to do something. Make it sound like an invitation,
not an order. For example, 'If you put your mittens and hat on, we'll
be able to go to your play group.' Do not battle over unimportant
things like which shoes your child wears or whether he or she sits in
the high-chair or booster seat. Safety is what matters, such as not
touching a hot stove, keeping the car seat buckled, and not playing in
the street.
Offer choices when possible. For example, let your child pick what
clothes to wear and what stories to read. A child who feels
independent in many areas will be more likely to follow rules when it
is a must. Do not offer a choice if one does not truly exist.

If temper tantrums are getting worse and you do not think you can
manage them, seek the advice of your health care provider. Also get
help if you are not able to control your anger and shouting or if you
are worried that you may react to your child's behavior with physical
You need to take her to a child psychologist, if she starts doing one
of the following:
1. She injures herself or others, or destroys property during tantrums
2. She holds her breath during tantrums, especially if she faints
3. She also has nightmares, reversal of toilet training, headaches,
stomach aches, anxiety, refuses to eat or go to bed, or clings to you

I hope that my advice helps you cope with your child's behavior in a
better, scientifically sound manner.
Please feel free to get back to me in case you have further queries.
Dr. Saptharishi L G

Dr. Saptharishi L G
Category: ICU/ Critical Care Specialist
Senior Residency: DM,  Pediatric Critical Care, PGIMER

Residency: MD, Pediatrics, Postgraduate Medical Education & Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh, 2013

Internship: JIPMER, 2009

Medical School: MBBS, Jawaharlal Institute of Post-graduate Medical Education & Research (JIPMER), Puducherry, 2008
Dr. Saptharishi L G and 4 other Medical Specialists are ready to help you

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