One of the hardest parts of raising a child has got to be managing the temper tantrums. Watching your child – who was only moments earlier perfectly content – go into a raging, screaming tantrum can be overwhelming and…. sometimes… intimidating.
What is a parent to do when their sweet little angel does a 180° in the middle of Costco? First…
- STAY CALM. Yes, I realize how hard that can be when you have someone screaming in your face that you’re a stinky poopy head and you need to give them candy RIGHT… NOOOOOOOOWWWWW!!!!! But you must remain calm. Because if your emotions rev up, they will know immediately and that tantrum will escalate. Children are extremely perceptive and intuitive, and pick up on shifting emotions very easily. So do your best to take a deep breath, take a sip of Chamomile Tea (or a shot of Whiskey), and prepare to deal.
- Do not try to talk to them about it when they are experiencing high emotions. If your child is just a little bit upset and crying, you may be able to soothe them by talking to them about why they are upset and how you may be able to help them calm down. If they are screaming, angry, and/or being physical however, talking isn’t going to do much except cause confusion and further aggravation. Instead, try to find a different way to diffuse the situation as quickly as possible. Some examples are:
- Sometimes a tantrum can be soothed quickly by averting the child’s attention onto something that they enjoy. Offering to read a book, getting out paints and paper, taking a walk, putting on their favorite music, etc. are just a few of about a billion ways in which you can take their mind off of being upset so they can calm down.
- Offering something else. If your child is upset because you said “no” to something s/he wanted, try offering something else that s/he might like instead. Being able to say “yes” to something when all your child is focusing on is the “no” you already gave can certainly help him/her realize that not everything is a “no.”
- Give your child a choice. If your child wants to do something that you cannot say “yes” to, offer a choice between two alternate options. This gives the child the feeling of control that they are seeking, while giving you the peace of mind that you have offered something that you are comfortable with.
- Do not spank!! I know spanking is a controversial subject, but I have to say this: How can we possibly teach our children how to express their strong emotions in healthy and peaceful ways if we strike them when they’re having a hard time doing so? I have heard parents yell at their children for hitting another person and then spanking that child for that very reason! That doesn’t make sense to me. Children are human beings, too, and deserve to be met with compassion and nurturing even during challenging moments just like we would hope for ourselves. End rant. Don’t spank.
- Some children are prone to lashing out and inadvertently harming themselves or another person during the midst of a tantrum. If your child has this tendency, your first priority should be to move him/her to a quiet, safe place where s/he can work through their tantrum with minimal opportunity or means to do harm.
- DON’T give in. It can be so easy to do when we just want the screaming/kicking/yelling/crying/repeating to stop, but that is one of the worst things you can do because your child will learn to use tantrums to get what they want. And no doubt, it will escalate every time you try to stick to your guns. So tell yourself right out of the gate that you have made your decision based on firm beliefs and you will stay true to that decision. Note: this doesn’t mean that we are never allowed to change our minds. Sometime we rashly say “no” to something that – once we give it a little thought – actually isn’t such a big deal to say “yes” to. In those moments, go for it! But don’t say “yes” just to stop a tantrum even if you feel your initial decision was warranted.
If you ever feel too angry or like you might become violent when faced with a tantrum, please reach out to someone who can help you. Whether this be a friend, family member, doctor or hotline, take that step towards nurturing yourself so that you can continue to show compassion and patience towards your child(ren). High emotions can be very triggering and it isn’t uncommon to feel some impatience, overwhelm, or even anger initially when thrown into having to deal with one, but it is critically important that you maintain your cool, even if it means reaching out for help to do so. Children are still learning to cope and express themselves in a peaceful way. They need your guidance, your compassion, and your love.