Brave Scientists Record and Study Kids Losing Their Shit

Illustration for article titled Brave Scientists Record and Study Kids Losing Their Shit

A team of scientists have spent the last several months studying the moments in a parent's life that seem like they last an eternity— children's temper tantrums. And they found there's a lot more to the angry screaming and flailing and hysterical "I HATE YOU"s than meets the eye.


NPR reports that the researchers outfitted several toddlers with bugged onesies that captured high-definition recordings of the child's freak outs. They (very very patiently, and I hope with the aid of beer) analyzed the tantrums and found a pattern within the shriekery that actually might help parents get their kids to calm the fuck down.

They found that temper tantrums are comprised of a combination of emotions— anger and sadness. When children are angry, they try to throw things or hit people. When they're sad, they throw themselves on the floor, whimper, and seek comfort. But rather than being mutually exclusive, anger and sadness are actually intertwined, occurring simultaneously and in different amounts. So what's a parent to do to stop the madness?

The trick in getting a tantrum to end as soon as possible, [Researcher Michael] Potegal said, was to get the child past the peaks of anger. Once the child was past being angry, what was left was sadness, and sad children reach out for comfort. The quickest way past the anger, the scientists said, was to do nothing.


Children are self-regulating and it seems the libertarian approach works best for them. Ron Paul would be ecstatic.

Another quick temper tantrum fix: enchanted chocolate factory's room full of worker squirrels. A warning, though: Gene Wilder is terrifying to children, so may actually cause temper tantrums.

What's Behind a Temper Tantrum? [NPR]

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It was interesting reading the comments on the NPR website. Several people seem to say tantrums were totally due to poor parenting and people who are 40-50 year olds now never had tantrums when they were young due to discipline. Or that tantrums are due to a physical cause and once that is remedied they all go away.

I have no children and just assumed tantrums were a normal part of childhood - to a reasonable degree. Any parents on here have a perspective? Are they avoidable?