Tantrums are hard to handle, here’s some things I’ve gathered that hopefully will help you navigate these stressful moments.
I’m very big on understanding human beings and why things are the way they are. Understanding why a child is acting a certain way, will help me respond the best way I can.
- UNDERSTAND WHAT YOUR GOAL IS
My main mission as a parent is to understand my responsibility which is teaching my child life skills. Teaching and discipline are merely the same thing. When we hear discipline we tend to think of it as “harsh” “punishment” “consequences”- Actually, discipline is an exchange between a parent and a child, where you connect with them to redirect them in a emphatic way; to show that you’re present, listening and kind while still setting rules and boundaries. My goal is to ask myself why did my child behave this way in a deeper way than just thinking “he’s a brat”; What do I want to teach in this moment whether it’s self-control, sharing…; and How can I do my best to translate this lesson considering how old and what stage my child is and also by not going directly to a punishment or getting mad which is not serving anyone in a long term.
- UNDERSTAND THE TANTRUM
For much younger children, it’s mostly emotional, not being able to communicate and also testing out things; they don’t know just yet what’s right or wrong and they start to understand that concept until 2 years old but yet there’s uncertainty of the why this is wrong. They’re not trying to purposely hurt you, be a pain or not listen. They have emotional behaviors that requires certain needs and attention due to the brain not being fully developed or natural attachment behaviors.
Tantrums are emotional and they feel a lack of or they’re just frustrated. They lack of vocabulary and navigating their emotions. They can’t control their emotions so it is a waste of time to punish or scream because there is a remaining non-understanding of their behavior. As a parent, you have to guide them to understand their feelings. I mean, as adults we’re still doing that on the daily and it’s not easy! imagine feeling angry for the first time and you don’t even know where or why that feeling came up. Even if they are all over the place and you assume they’re not listening, they are. Talk to them. Always choose communication and kindness but stay firm. It also comes for two different parts of the brain- one part where it’s more calculated and less irrational and another one where it’s emotional and really requires communication instead of getting angry or impatient and that’s usually when we lose it and act as immature as our child. “don’t hit” “don’t do this” “time out” are not explaining or giving any deep lessons or guidance to a child. Some things in life will not require you to explain as some life lessons will explain much more than words but other times, you have to take the time to redirect.This applies to older children and while you’re getting ready or if you have an older child, this book that I’m reading right now is amazing. click here.
- UNDERSTAND YOUR OWN TANTRUM
It’s difficult to not feel like you need to yell louder than your child or get angry in that moment. I think it’s pretty natural to feel attacked right away, so our first response is to behave by attacking back. Understanding that you as a parent have your own triggers, relationship and behaviors from your parents, where you probably felt powerless at times and that feeling can really make us impatient or angry. Therefore, during a tantrum it puts you in a stress mode situation, you have the impulse to be dominant and “go to war” but that’s when you need to breathe and understand that your child is stressed too! so what’s the point…
Language tools to redirect certain behaviors:
Hitting —> “hands are to be gentle, show me gentle.”
No —> the word no is a stressor to their brain until about 3 years old. here’s what you can do to redirect. “play with this instead.” – “do you need help?” – “this is dangerous, this is safe.”
biting —> “that hurts. I’m pushing your teeth away. what are you trying to say? are you hungry? this is safe to bite.”
That’s not nice! that’s mean! –> let’s be gentle
not sharing —> “you can play with this.” – “I think he/she is still playing with that.” and redirect his attention with another toy/activity
- PUNISHMENT VS CONSEQUENCES
Punishment is a lack of verbal explanation to teach the child what happened that would cause the punishment. Consequences allows the Child to “review” their behavior and gives them a chance to correct it; without guilt or shame.
When you punish, it’s really about your reaction, your understanding and knowledge of the behavior that you assumed ,subconsciously maybe, that your child knew. If punishing is the constant result, you may never know what your child is learning about his behavior, and is actually eventually stopping that behavior only because of the uncomfortable result, but not because of the root of the behavior. That doesn’t offer life lesson or life skills and some things might come from our own patterns.
Consequences are a natural redirection, communication and life examples of what happens when a behavior is not being revised. It’s setting clear boundaries and if they don’t understand right away, that’s ok! these things takes time.
if you ask your child to not throw a toy and they keep doing it after explaining and a warning, you take it away, and re-introduce it later. You repeat it until the behavior stops.
time outs, yelling, shaming and guilting are very poor teachers. They’re an expression of your behavior and it’s absolutely normal to feel lost and maybe not know of another alternatives, but perhaps applying more communicative approaches will help you and your child.
- HOW TO BEHAVE DURING A TANTRUM
Redirecting gently and kindly with your young baby is healthy and you get to practice! redirecting also means to explain, to communicate, to respect, to understand and to be kind.
It’s really hard to keep your cool sometimes and I really do my best to always come from a place of understanding. I limit my reactions as at a young age, they really look for any reaction that would validate that behavior, but they also understand more than you think! So I wait for the tantrum to be over and then softly but firmly explain why you’re upset that your child did something but also acknowledging their feeling and validating the way they feel. “you’re angry. I wasn’t paying attention but we have to be gentle.” One mom also advised me to even explain what parts of the body are for “your hands are not for hitting but to caress” and finish by showing affection by letting them feel secure and not scared.
limiting negations by always saying “no” is also helpful, that’s something that I’ve been working on for a while. Saying “No” has scientifically been proven to cause a lot of stress in the child’s brain; they feel attacked and don’t have the ability yet to actually comprehend fully what “no” means until they’re three years old so most likely they’ll keep doing what they’re doing. Instead positively redirecting with “yes you can play with that toy but not throw it.”
- HOW TO POSITIVELY HANDLE A TANTRUM
they are actually craving for rules at that age even though it seems as it is what makes them angry but that’s their learning process.
Repetition and consistency is also really important, if one day you’re in a really good mood and you don’t care that they threw food all over the floor but the next day you’re cranky and get mad, they will get really confused.
Use positive reinforcement as they don’t understand the negations and it doesn’t cause as much stress.
Create routines and babies or kids usually love a good routine! you know what to expect and so do they! it can also be helpful to formulate questions instead of orders “What do we do after pajamas?” and they’ll know it’s time for story time or brushing their teeth…
Ask for permission, they are human beings and have their own right after all. I always ask Oliver “Are you done playing in the bath? can we go out? ” Obviously he doesn’t always cooperate, but he knows what to expect. He still gets frustrated sometimes but I don’t want to force him to do something right off the bat; I’d rather give him the opportunity to make a choice, a decision. Even if he’s playing with the remote or something I don’ want him to touch,i always ask “can I have this please?” he usually always hands it to me and I avoided ten minutes of crying by ripping it off from his hands.
Give tons of affection, children need it and there’s no spoiling a child with affection. You’re more likely to create a “brat” by not giving affection.
We’re all in this! tantrums are normal! it actually shows that a child that has tantrums with their parents means that they feel safe and secure and can be themselves….so keep that in mind! All these advice and research has made me feel a little better going into this parenting thing that is a new adventure every day! I love understanding my child and myself. I can’t avoid tantrums but I can do better at responding to them.