You know what a tantrum looks like, you can identify the warning signs before your child knows it’s coming. The way they shift their feet, the slight whine their voice develops, the squinted eyes and tilted head. Take a deep breath and try to prepare, because here it comes…
What is your first reaction to your child’s tantrum?
Don’t worry, you don’t actually have to tell me 😉I’ll tell you mine, though.
My typical first reaction is annoyance.
“Ugh, here we go again.”
“It’s no big deal, just shake it off.”
“What are you getting so upset about???”
Why are tantrums so annoying? Well, frankly, because I’m selfish. I want to do what I want to do without interruption or roadblocks. So I treat my kids like they are a nuisance and an inconvenience – which is the opposite of what I want them to learn from me.
So what are those five things to avoid during a tantrum?
- Avoid sighing or rolling your eyes.
I want you to pause for a moment. Close your eyes if you need to. Imagine you are trying to communicate that you are upset to someone you love and – WHOA. They just sighed and rolled their eyes at you. How do you feel in that moment? If I had to guess, I would say hurt, angry, and unimportant. Your kiddo is 100% capable of feeling that, too. Instead of sighing or rolling your eyes, take a deep breath and listen to understand.
- Avoid minimizing their feelings.
I can honestly say I have an extremely difficult time empathizing over a small rip in the paper, the piece of cereal falling on the floor, or getting a limb stuck in a piece of clothing. To me, those are small, easily solvable issues. To a toddler, or even a preschooler? That’s a BIG DEAL. High drama, with a capital D. Why? Because they are just learning to solve these problems. Instead of minimizing their feelings, equip them to solve this small problem so they can go on to solve bigger problems.
- Avoid being loud or yelling.
When there is danger, our bodies automatically go into fight or flight mode. Loud, angry noises trigger that mode in us – especially for a small child. They literally will not be physically capable of comprehending anything you are saying when you are being loud and scary (even if you don’t think you are being scary!). If we want them to stop what they are doing, we need to help them be calm and understand what we are trying to teach them. Instead of being loud, speak in a quiet voice, possibly even a whisper.
- Avoid towering over them.
This ties in with the “scary” factor – you are big, much bigger than they are. They already see Mommy or Daddy as huge people, so imagine how much bigger you seem when you are angry. Instead of towering over them, squat down so you are at their eye level.
- Avoid retaliation.
This one’s a toughie. It is so easy to get our own feelings hurt, as though that sweet little darlin’ is making our life difficult on purpose. They aren’t. They are working through their big feelings, and they will treat others the way you treat them. Instead of retaliating, choose forgiveness.
So where do we go from here?
One step forward at a time.
Choose one of the above to practice, and get really good at it before moving on to the next one. During your child’s next tantrum, try to be aware of what you are doing, and what you can change in that moment to make yourself a safe person for them.
And always, always remind them how very loved they are.