Temper tantrums in children with cerebral palsy can often indicate a greater problem.
Therefore, it’s essential to understand why children with cerebral palsy act out and how to manage their behaviors.
This article will discuss whether cerebral palsy has anything to do with temper tantrums and how to best manage them.
Causes of Cerebral Palsy Temper Tantrums
Roughly 25% of people with cerebral palsy have behavioral issues. Temper tantrums are completely normal in children with and without cerebral palsy. The cause of a temper tantrum may not even have anything to do with CP and instead, could be age-related and developmentally appropriate.
Cerebral palsy is caused by damage to the developing brain and results in motor impairments. Therefore, it is not directly related to the emotional regulation difficulties that cause temper tantrums.
However, the motor impairments that cerebral palsy does cause can cause children to feel frustrated and lead to temper tantrums.
For example, oral motor impairments can make it difficult for children with CP to talk, or spasticity in the leg can make it challenging for children to run quickly during play. Similarly, associated conditions of cerebral palsy such as chronic pain, poor quality sleep, and learning disabilities may contribute to temper tantrums.
Children with cerebral palsy can usually tell when they’re not understanding or doing things as quickly or as easily as those around them. As a result, they may act out because they feel different, misunderstood, and unaccepted.
Now that you understand the link between cerebral palsy and temper tantrums, let’s discuss ways to help your child better cope with their emotions.
How to Manage Cerebral Palsy Temper Tantrums
Management of cerebral palsy temper tantrums is essential.
The harsh reality of life is that often times, people with disabilities are still expected to go through their daily lives the same way people without disabilities do.
While a temper tantrum in a child is typical, a temper tantrum in a teen or adult is usually looked down upon. Therefore, it’s ideal to address temper tantrums early and teach your child more effective ways to communicate their feelings.
Below, we’ll go over mistakes to avoid and some of the most effective ways to manage temper tantrums in children with cerebral palsy.
1. Avoid Giving In
When your child throws a temper tantrum over not getting what they want, the worst thing to do is give in.
Giving in only reinforces the idea that the child can get what they want by acting out. While it may quiet them down, you’re not fixing the underlying problem.
2. Behavioral Therapy
Children that continue to act out as they get older are often not developing the social skills necessary to effectively communicate their feelings and emotions.
Consider taking your child to a behavioral therapist to further work on developing social skills like:
- Controlling impulses
- Social expectations
- Delayed gratification
Behavioral therapy will teach your child that there are better ways to cope with frustration than having a temper tantrum.
Sometimes, you just need to take your child away from the situation causing the temper tantrum.
Generally, children have short attention spans and will quickly get over what they were overreacting to if you take them out of the situation.
Calmly explain to your child why they are in a time-out and allow for an appropriate amount of quiet, alone time. Generally, the length of the time-out should be about one minute long per each year of age. With this guideline, a five year old would have about five minutes in time-out, while a three year old’s time-out would be about three minutes long. This will give them time to cool off and reflect on their own before returning to their activity.
4. Be Positive
Diverting your child’s attention away from what they can’t do and encouraging them to do things that they’re good at will help relieve frustration and boost confidence.
Acknowledge and praise your child for positive behavior. This will help them distinguish the difference between good and bad behaviors.
5. Encourage Emotional Self-Regulation
Teaching children to find positive ways to deal with their emotions allows them to self-regulate. Emotional self-regulation is the ability to “check in” with yourself and use strategies to ensure your emotions and behavioral reactions are appropriate for the situation.
This is ideal for older children, but even younger children can learn to better regulate their emotions with adult guidance.
If your child feels as though they are getting close to having a temper tantrum, having some solid strategies to manage their emotions is essential.
Self-regulation strategies can include:
- Deep breathing with counting: Count as you take 5 deep breaths, breathing in through the nose like smelling flowers, exhaling out through the mouth like blowing out candles
- Self-hugging: Giving yourself a hug (or squeezing a pillow) provides deep pressure, calming the sensory systems and often emotions as well
- Take a break: Go to somewhere different and do a relaxing activity (coloring, listening to music, etc.)
Cerebral Palsy Temper Tantrums: Summary
Learning difficulties, motor impairments, and speech disorders can make it difficult for children with cerebral palsy to communicate. This can be very frustrating and result in temper tantrums.
While temper tantrums are normal in young children, they become less socially acceptable as the child gets older.
By developing better social skills, reflecting on their actions, and focusing on things they’re good at, children with cerebral palsy can learn to better express and cope with their frustrations.