Temper Tantrum Study: Children's Episodes Involve Intertwined Feelings Of Anger, Sadness

Trouble With Temper Tantrums? Science Can Help

Turns out there's a pattern behind your child's temper tantrums, and even a scientifically proven way to help parents get through them, one study suggests.

Research published in the journal Emotion suggests that children's screaming, yelling, crying, whining, and fussing have different acoustic features revealing different emotions.

Scientists attached wireless microphones to participants' onesies, and parents turned on the mics once a tantrum started, NPR reports. After the samples were collected, researchers listened to and analyzed more than 100 audio recordings and discovered certain patterns of anger and sadness amongst the madness.

Results suggest that "screaming and yelling" had acoustically similar features and were associated with anger, while "crying, whining and fussing" were similar in their own regards and reflected sadness, the study's abstract explains.

While some believe tantrums start with bouts of anger that regress to feelings of sadness, research suggests the emotions are more intertwined than separate.

Study co-author Michael Potegal suggests there's a way for parents to stick through it: Don't do a thing, NPR explains.

Time writer Bonnie Rochman tried out the advice with her own 4-year-old daughter, who was in the midst of a meltdown. And, by golly, it worked. Rochman writes:

Potegal advises moms and dads to ignore their freaking-out kiddo, and soon enough, the fury will subside, leaving a whole bunch of sadness. That's when parents can swoop in. Sad children seek comfort, and sure enough, that's just what mine did.

"Mama," she cried, summoning me to the couch where she'd thrown herself down. "Silky," she said, willing her beloved security blanket to appear.

However, researchers acknowledge it's not always easy for caregivers to tune out the fury -- especially if the child's tantrum takes place outside the home.

"If parents can avoid getting caught up in the anger, better things are likely to happen," James Green, another of the study's co-authors, explained to ABC News. "Of course, if you are in a theater, you may simply have to 'take control' in the sense of physically removing the child."

Author and HuffPost blogger Hayley Krischer admits she has a hard time keeping cool throughout her daughter's tantrums and that ignoring her is difficult to do. Krischer explains her alternative:

On a good day, I try to give my two-year-old choices. I attempt to keep my voice low. If she doesn't respond, then I remove her from the situation and tell her I'll speak to her when she's done screaming.

While all parents have their own ways of responding to a tantrum, Green said the results of the study can help give parents "a sense of control," NPR writes.

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