Topic Overview

As children learn to deal with frustration, fear, and anger,
breath-holding spells become less frequent.

Parents may be able to prevent some spells by seeing that their child
gets plenty of rest and that he or she feels secure. Some ways to help your
child get enough rest include:

  • Having regular rest times for your child during
    the day.
  • Ensuring that your child gets adequate sleep at

Here are some ways you can help your child feel secure and less

  • Have regular daily routines for your
  • Keep your home atmosphere calm.
  • Allow your child
    to make some simple choices, such as which shirt to wear.
  • Praise
    your child for behaving appropriately and meeting your
  • Praise your child when he or she learns and masters
    new tasks, and afterward when he or she does them well.

Encouraging your child to play alone will help your child develop a
more positive self-image. This also can reduce feelings of frustration.

Some parents are so upset by breath-holding spells that they shelter
the child from any and all frustrating situations or may fail to set consistent
limits for the child in an effort to prevent the spells. As a result, the child
doesn’t learn other ways to express his or her frustration and anger.

Even if the parents’ efforts succeed in preventing breath-holding
spells, the behavior problems may remain. To avoid this problem:

  • Do not overreact to your child’s negative
  • Do not overreact to breath-holding spells. When your
    child is beginning a spell, suggest an alternative way of expressing feelings
    of frustration, anger, and fear, such as “Use your words.” After the spell,
    acknowledge your child’s behavior and feelings.
  • Avoid
    overprotecting or sheltering the child from the normal frustrations of
    childhood. Minimize unnecessary frustrations, but do not try to remove them
  • Remind yourself that breath-holding spells are not hurting the
    child and that the child will grow out of them in time.
  • Be firm,
    fair, and consistent when establishing discipline for your child. Set limits
    and follow through with consequences.

If you struggle with any of these issues, parenting classes or
counseling can sometimes be helpful.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD – Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer Louis Pellegrino, MD – Developmental Pediatrics

Current as ofMay 4, 2017