Children have tantrums, sometimes daily. How do you respond to those outbursts? Is it working for you? This post is all about some of the mistakes you may be making when responding to tantrums.
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Sometimes as a parent it can be very frustrating to deal with a tantrum, especially if it’s over the same thing day in and day out.
My children have tantrums too, and I desperately want to help them through them. The thing is, I’m not a perfect parent and while I want to help my kids through their pain, their actions frustrate me and I want to scream. Do you feel the same way sometimes too?
It is very difficult to remain calm when your child is having a tantrum, but parenting isn’t easy and these are things every parent has to work on.
When a child is having a tantrum, they are dealing with emotions that they don’t quite know how to deal with and express. It can be anger, sadness, disappointment and it can often seem totally irrational from an adult’s point of view. But the thing is, young children just don’t have the ability to regulate their emotions and can be easily overwhelmed. They simply cannot help their outburst.
One would think that the best way to prevent a tantrum is to stop a tantrum…
This is flawed thinking because children have a mind of their own, and it’s difficult to know what they are thinking and feeling. How can a parent be expected to stop something from happening when they don’t know it’s coming?
Because we cannot truly stop the tantrum from happening in the first place, our instinct is to bribe, yell, punish, shame, guilt, even spank. These are all forms of negative punishment, and I’ve never been a huge fan.
These kinds of responses to children’s tantrums just lead to children who do not face their feelings as they grow older.
Because a child who is throwing a tantrum is in “emotional crisis” they end up in tears and often cannot even hear what we are trying to say to them. It’s kind of like talking to a brick wall in the midst of a tantrum instead of a child who is intently listening.
If you want to read about the techniques I use to calm down my own children, read this post about calm down corners…they are simply wonderful.
So without further ado, here are the top mistakes you may be making when it comes to responding to a tantrum your child is having, and some tips on what you can do instead.
What do I mean by guilting your child? It’s when the parents pretend to be hurt and sometimes put on a fake cry and pout. This kind of reaction is not effective because ultimately the child didn’t know how to react to an emotion, had no control over himself in the middle of the meltdown, and the lesson is basically moot. Children shouldn’t need to have that kind of responsibility. They are after all, just kids who are learning how to handle themselves everyday.
There is definitely a time and place to teach children about empathy, but mid-tantrum is not that time. Our main goal is to stay calm and try to figure out what the child is going through. We should know that the child is not trying to intentionally hurt us, and the last thing they need to be feeling on top of those confusing emotions is that they have possibly hurt our feelings as well.
What you can do instead
Because your child is simply not knowing how to tell you what the problem is, it is your job to figure out what they are going through. Are they feeling tired or hungry? Are they possibly needing some quality time or are they having too much screen time which is affecting their behaviour? Stay calm and communicate with your child to try to troubleshoot the situation, and then guide them through the problem.
Ignoring The Tantrum
A lot of parenting experts online will tell you to ignore the tantrum, and so a lot of parent do in fact follow this advice. It is the old way of thinking that’s for sure. However when we ignore a tantrum it tells them that we simply do not care about their pain and suffering. And often times, sending them to their room tells them that you cannot handle dealing with their feelings and they should just deal with it themselves.
Don’t ignore the tantrum!
What you can do instead
When your child is having a tantrum, it is important to get down to their level and have some good old eye contact time. Let them know that you are there for them, and can guide them through their feelings. If anything at all, it lets them know that you are close by and you care.
Sometimes all the child needs is a little comfort and love. Sending them away or leaving the room they are in could send them farther into a tantrum and doesn’t help them learn to deal with their feelings at all.
Putting Them In their Place (Shaming)
When we tell our children they did not live up to our expectations is the same as putting them in their place. It’s kicking them while they are down.
Small children want to please us all the time. They want us to be happy with their behaviour and they try really hard to accomplish that.
When we say things like ” why can’t you be more like your brother” and “big boys don’t cry” we are making them feel shame and embarrassment. These are not good feelings at all! This is not an affective way to deal with a tantrum.
Little children simply cannot control their emotions, these are things they need to learn over time.
What you can do instead
Instead of putting our children down while they are already feeling pretty yucky, we can provide encouragement, especially the encouragement to feel all the feelings.
Because a tantrum is simply a natural response to not knowing how to express those feelings, it is the peaceful parenting thing to do to encourage our children to feel and accept the feelings they feel.
It is certainly ok and encouraged to set limits and expectations for behaviour, that is after all what parenting is all about. It is how we handle the situation when those limits are tested that how the child will learn how to respond to situations themselves.
Related: 10 Quick Tips For Better Behaviour
Children get frightened when we raise our voices and yelling at them during a tantrum just makes the situation a lot worse. It can be very confusing to them! They really will not understand why you are yelling because they simply cannot process any information when they are that upset. It is very difficult to calm down a child who is frightened and unsure, which is why yelling is not the solution.
What you can do instead
Instead of yelling, you can remain calm while your child is losing control of their emotions in a tantrum. If our children see that we are calm, they are more likely to calm down quickly themselves.
Yelling to your child mid-tantrum is not effective. Your child is not intentionally trying to act out. Imagine how frightening it is already to feel so out of control, and then be yelled at for it too. If your child could tell you what they are feeling when they are having a breakdown, they would probably let you know that they need help and that they need you to show them love during this time (and all the time!)
Children Will Face Tantrums
Tantrums are not easily avoided, and while we try our best to help prevent them in the first place, sometimes its a lost cause.
After a tantrum has happened, it is time to move on from the situation. It’s not a good idea for parents to hold grudges and bring up these tantrums when trying to make a point later on in the day. Young kids cannot reconnect back to the feelings they had when they were facing their tantrum, and so your point will be moot.
Your child needs to know that you, their parent, have confidence in them and their ability to handle the situation better next time.
Suggested Reading For Parents:
Suggested Reading For Kids
Tools to help your toddler understand how to calm down after a tantrum.
It helps children deal with overwhelming feelings.
Tired Mom Supermom uses personal experiences and research to help you in your parenting journey. Tired mom supermom is not a psychologist and you should seek professional help and advice if you are having difficulties with raising your children.