The sound of a toddler's temper tantrum may be the bane of any parent's existence, but scientific research shows that toddler fits unravel in phases and can be fixed.
A new study published in the journal Emotion found that each tantrum comes with an audio signature that expresses anger and sadness, sometimes simultaneously.
The impression that tantrums have two stages is incorrect, Michael Potegal, researcher at the University of Minnesota and study co-author, told NPR in reference to a prior notion that tantrum attacks would begin with shouts and then break down into an additional stage of crying and sadness.
In this study, the researchers looked for analyzed patterns of tantrum sounds in 100 toddlers. They developed an onesie with high-quality wireless microphones that recorded the toddlers while they carried out their tantrums.
The scientists found that sounds peaked and faded in a distinct pattern with some specific sounds like yelling and screaming coming together.
Screaming and yelling and kicking often go together, Potegal told NPR. Throwing things and pulling and pushing things tend to go together. Combinations of crying, whining, falling to the floor and seeking comfort -- and these also hang together.
Through the research a new theory has emerged: parents should not ignore the tantrum. According to Potegal, once the child has reached his or her peak of anger and fallen into a state of sadness, parents can actually console their child to calm them down because sad children look for comfort.
You know, when children are at the peak of anger and they're screaming and they're kicking, probably asking questions might prolong that period of anger, co-author James A. Green said in an interview with NPR. It's difficult for them to process information. And to respond to a question that the parent is asking them may be just adding more information into the system than they can really cope with.
The trick is to ignore the anger tantrum and then console the child's sadness to ease the traumatic experience and help them to return to a normal and calm state.