A tantrum (or temper tantrum or tirade or hissy fit) is an emotional outburst, usually associated with children or those in emotional distress, that is typically characterized by stubbornness, crying, screaming, yelling, shrieking, defiance, angry ranting, a resistance to attempts at pacification and, in some cases, violence. Physical control may be lost, the person may be unable to remain still, and even if the "goal" of the person is met he or she may not be calmed. A tantrum may be expressed in a tirade: a protracted, angry, or violent speech.
Tantrums are one of the most common forms of problematic behaviour in young children but tend to decrease in frequency and intensity as the child grows older. For the toddler, tantrums can be considered as normal, even as gauges of a developing strength of character.
While tantrums are sometimes seen as a predictor of future anti-social behaviour, in another sense they are simply an age-appropriate sign of excessive frustration, and will diminish over time given a calm and consistent handling. Parental containment where a child cannot contain itself - rather than what the child is ostensibly demanding - may be what is really required.
Freud considered that the Wolf Man's development of temper tantrums was connected with his seduction by his sister: he became "discontented, irritable and violent, took offence on every possible occasion, and then flew into a rage and screamed like a savage". Freud linked the tantrums to an unconscious need for punishment driven by feelings of guilt - something which he thought could be generalised to many other cases of childhood tantrums.
Heinz Kohut contended that tantrums were narcissistic rages, caused by the thwarting of the infant's grandiose-exhibitionist core. The blow to the inflated self-image, when a child's wishes are (however justifiably) refused, creates fury because it strikes at the feeling of omnipotence.
Some people who have neurological disorders such as the combination of autism or mental retardation could be more prone to tantrums than others, although anyone experiencing forebrain damage (temporary or permanent) can suffer from tantrums. Anyone may be prone to tantrums once in a while, regardless of gender or age.
In later life
- Tennis player Ilie Năstase is best remembered for being one of the best players never to win the singles title at Wimbledon and for his tantrums.
Examples from media
- The Town Santa Forgot, an animated television special, is the story is of Jeremy Creek, a boy who knows nothing but greed. He throws temper tantrums any time he sees what he wants, and he wants everything he sees.
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