Bethlehem Press

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The Family Project: Grandson’s tantrums

Friday, August 16, 2019 by CAROLE GORNEY Special to The Press in Focus

Q. I have a four-year-old grandson, who is a very sweet child. However, when angry he kicks, slaps and pinches his parents. His parents are calm, spend time with him and do not hit him. He doesn’t act like this with his grandparents. Any suggestions?

“My first response,” panelist Denise Continenza said, “relates to the idea of temperament: How children respond emotionally and behaviorally to the world.

“Some children have high-intensity emotions, so when they get frustrated and don’t get what they want, their emotions are so strong they take over,” said Continenza.

Panelist Chad Stefanyak said the problem may have as much to do with the temperament of the parents as with that of the child. “They are calm, and the son’s behavior is directed at them. Four-year-olds can be very creative in figuring what has to happen to get what they want,” Stefanyak said.

“He’s kicking, punching and slapping,” panelist Wanda Mercado-Arroyo said. “He’s very selective when he does it: when he doesn’t get his way. He may be getting away with it because of his parents’ passive style,” Mercado-Arroyo said.

Stefanyak wanted to know the level of the boy’s language skills. “Sometimes, young children get frustrated because they don’t know how to communicate. The boy may be smart and able to understand words, but his ability to express himself may be poor.”

Continenza said the grandparents may be giving in to their grandson and everybody needs to be on the same page and be consistent. “Let the boy know it is OK to be frustrated and angry. But it is not all right to hit someone.”

Give him an alternative, Continenza said, and tell him, “If you want to hit something, here is a pillow, but you don’t hit people.”

Another suggestion is for the parents to separate themselves from the boy until he calms down. “The parents should take a step back to evaluate what to do, and observe what does calm the boy,” Stefanyak said. “When the boy is calm, revisit the situation and explain to him that he needs to have better control of his emotions.”

The panel suggested reading materials on temperament and how to respond to it at:

This week’s team of parenting experts are: Wanda Mercado-Arroyo, former teacher and school administrator; Chad Stefanyak, school counselor; and Denise Continenza, extension educator.

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The Family Project is a collaboration of the Lehigh Valley Press Focus section and Valley Youth House’s Project Child.

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