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Addressing Temper Tantrums

Dealing with temper tantrums

Do you ever wonder why it seems that you get the tantrum throwing, needy or whinging child as soon as the car ride home begins? Funnily enough, you are not the only one – it’s a real phenomenon called “restraint collapse.” You’ve probably already experienced this afternoon digression with your child, but didn’t know it had a name. Maggie Baxter, Consultant at Gabbitas, explores what it is, why it happens, and how we can help our children work through this trying phase for all parties involved.

What is restraint collapse?

Students that experience restraint collapse usually show symptoms through their behaviour and emotional state that are easy to spot. Characteristics such as physical outbursts, temper tantrums, vocally reacting to their dislike or frustration, moodiness, closed-off behaviour or crying are all signs they are experiencing this. So don’t write it off immediately as poor behaviour, but perhaps a reaction to something else.

Why do children experience restraint collapse?

Although it is most common in children aged between 3 to 10 years, it can go on a couple of years after that, or begin to show signs before the age of 3 as well. After a full day of learning, interacting, and activity, children need a way to let-loose and readjust their head-space to fit into a completely new social situation in the home.

No one can argue that schools, especially here in the UAE, are not full of activity and stimulation, and restraint collapse is simply a way for children to release their pent-up stresses after a long day of learning. It is not necessarily a bad thing at all, but a built in natural way for kids to have stress-relief.

Dealing with tantrums with your children

How do we help our children cope?

In this case, it is all about transition and making the movement from the hustle and bustle of school back into the home environment as smooth as possible.

Firstly, if time allows and you do the pick up yourself, let the kids play a bit on the jungle gym and run around. If they had lessons for the second half of the day and haven’t had the opportunity since lunchtime, they need a physical output to release some energy into play, rather than negative physical behaviour at home. If that isn’t an option, how about a sport or physical activity? Think of your child as a daily balloon full of energy – if they don’t release the energy it will pent up and explode. Give them opportunities for release.

Secondly, just as you probably use the ride home to de-compartmentalize and adjust your behaviour and mindset, the kids can use this time for the same activity. Ask them about their day: what was the best part, what was the worst, what was something new or different that they learned or did, and what are they looking forward to tomorrow?

Furthermore, children more so than adults are what they eat, so make sure after-school snack is healthy and nutritious. Filling your child’s belly with sugar will not encourage them to readjust their mental state in a positive way and come back into the home environment seamlessly, but will actually have the opposite effect. A snack without refined sugar and high in protein, such as nuts, peanut butter on rice cakes, or hummus and veggies is a great option to keep their sugar levels even.

Lastly, consider a daily disconnect to make sure they switch off. No phones or tablets for half an hour instead encourage reading, board games, or colouring. This could be a great opportunity for bonding and checking up on their literacy progress or a way for them to learn some independence. Nevertheless, children’s brains need some time to calm and then their actions will follow suit.

As time goes on, which it will faster than any of us care to notice, there should be some evidence of restraint collapse characteristics easing up and your child being able to handle the transition from school to home or activities much smoother and with more control. The good news is that restraint collapse is definitely a condition that alleviates itself over time, and with these tips you can help everyone in the family deal with it better.



+971 (0) 445 16933
Gabbitas Education

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