Advent Daily: Practical Strategies for Empowered Parenting
December 17, 2016
Day 17: Taming the Tantrum
Let me start by saying that tantrums are not reserved for toddlers though they can be considered developmentally appropriate for that age. Tantrums are merely emotional outbursts that happen in moments when our bodies and/or minds are already distressed, and, therefore, our coping mechanisms are compromised. This distress may be caused by hunger, being tired, worry or anxiety, or, we have just hit our maximum of emotional demands for the day. They happen to people of ALL ages.
Obviously, the hope is that by the time we are adults, we have learned how to avoid these moments. Unfortunately, in my experience, most adults are not so mindful. How often do we experience "hangry" adults, for instance? The goal, then, is to raise our kiddos to be better at it than we are. In so doing, we may learn something along the way.
Steps to Taming the tantrum:
1. The tantrum cannot be tamed in the moment. Don't try to stop it. Simply provide a safe space for it to occur and let it run it's course. Your attention, good or bad, will not help.
2. Model effective calming exercises, like breathing, or going for a walk, or to a quiet place. (For young toddlers, just letting them be and supervising for safety is all you can probably do.
3. Don't give in. When you do, you are only teaching your child that tantrums are the way to getting what we want.
4. Once the tantrum is over, acknowledge the feelings your child was having. John Gottman's Emotion Coaching is a great tool for how to do this.
5. After you acknowledge the emotion, you may express empathy or sympathy, but still don't give in. You need to stay the course!! "I know you are really excited to get to the park. I am sorry it upsets you, but we really need to clean up our toys before we leave for the park."
6. When an opportunity for a tantrum arises, and your child moves through without one, acknowledge it. "I know you are really excited to get to the park, and you did such a great job helping to clean up! Now we get to go to the park!"
Children will go through phases of tantruming as they grow and develop. Stick to the plan! Believe it or not, they are looking for boundaries AND they want to know what they can trust.
If the idea of getting your child through this is daunting, remember Practice Makes Parents! Let me be your coach!