“BUT I WANT IT!!!!” they say with snot, tears, and other kid muck running down their face.
You quiver and shudder at the idea of facing another tantrum feels like the ninety-seventh of the day.
The number one thing I hear from parents who come to work together with me is “How can I make the tantrums STOP!” They seem to be facing the epic crying tantrum anytime they even think about setting any sort of limits. Leaving them feeling like prisoners in their own home. (you know, the eggshells you’re walking on)
The incessant crying is morning, noon, and night- seemingly striking whenever they don’t get their way.
If this sounds like you, I get it. And you are not alone.
Tantrums are one of the most common parenting struggles I encounter in my parenting programs. So today, I wanted to unpack three simple DOs and DON’Ts about tantrums and hopefully set you up for some success in the future!
DON’T #1: Don’t disregard your child’s feelings.
Tantrums happen when a child doesn’t get their way. They feel robbed of the thing they want most in the world and they want YOU to know it. Tantrums often start off inconsistently- poking up here and there with no real reasoning behind it. But then what I’ve noticed happening is that they will become more and more frequent until they get to the point where you’re thinking about selling your kids- maybe even joking about it on Facebook.
But the tantrum your child is having, is born out of feeling a deep feeling in a big way. Typically tantrums are born out of anger, frustration, disappointment, and embarrassment. If we’re not used to processing throughout own anger in a healthy way- we can easily start to get sucked up in our child’s anger and go into MEGA INVALIDATION MODE. Saying things like “You don’t always get what you want!”, “Stop it!”, “Stop crying”, “Calm down!”, “Life’s not fair.”
The problem when this happens is that it doesn’t give a child’s emotions a place to go, other than to be stuffed down inside. And that’s not the place you want them to go.
DO #1: Validate your child’s feelings!
Validating feelings is a BIG game changer in the world of tantrums. Validation is an important part of helping your child learn how to MOVE through those mega tantrums and process through those hard feelings. The benefit to us is that we don’t have to become engulfed in our child’s big emotions, we don’t have to fix the problem, and we certainly do not give it and give them the thing they are tantruming about.
Validation is basically just saying “I see you! You are feeling this way. I’ve felt that way before, and it’s no fun.” We do not have to agree AT ALL when we are truly validating our children’s feelings- its like magic.
“You are angry because I said no to using peanut butter as hair cream. You really really wanted to do that, and I said no. It’s really hard to hear no, I get it.”
That is an example of validation without agreeing about the trigger into anger! I have written an entire blog about validation- you can find by clicking here! Also, any of my parent programs address validation in a pivotal way!
DON’T #2: Don’t give in to the tantrum.
Like I said, tantrums typically pop up after you’ve set a limit and your child wants to “convince” you to change it. The mistake most parents/teachers/caregivers make is that after the tantrum starts- they give in to get the painful crying to stop. What that does is set you up for more and LONGER tantrums in the future.
Children are so smart! They are literally learning how to survive in this world and they are constantly after 2 basic human needs: ATTENTION and POWER! Tantrums fill both of those needs- but they are filled negatively. Meaning with a negative outcome.
When a tantrum spikes, I strongly encourage you to validate those feelings but hold firm in not giving in. At first, this might be super stressful and hard- but holding firm sets the limit solid.
DO #2: Make a simple request if you MUST give in.
Perhaps you’re breaking a nasty tantrum cycle. Like I’m talking about you have a migraine, a sleeping baby, and your toddler is asking to watch just ONE MORE PAW PATROL episode. You’ve set your limit as no, which spikes them into epic tantrum mode saying “I hate you, you’re the worst ever” and you’re feeling so frazzled and ready to just let their brain rot with screen time. Before you do that- I advise you to just make a simple request.
“I know I said no to more Paw Patrol, but if you can clean up 3 toys we can watch one more episode.”
Doing this changes the reason for Paw Patrol viewing time getting extended. It’s not in response to the tantrum, it’s in response to the follow through of the request. If your child can pick up 3 toys, then they are receiving the reward for complying to your request.
Simple request examples: Give me a hug, Take a deep breath, Touch your nose, Get back in your bed, Pick up 3 toys, etc. These are EASY things for your child to do. If they’re not able to comply with those, then perhaps you’re not facing a tantrum- but rather, a meltdown! (Read more on meltdowns here)
DON’T #3: Don’t face tantrums alone.
Tantrums are a painful part of parenting. They are also a NORMAL part of parenting. Tantrums are not a sign that you’re a bad parent, weak parent, abusive parent- no one is watching you in Target thinking “God, woman just give them the lollipop”- and if they are, fuck ‘em. Parent for your relationship with your child, not the random stranger in Target. Tantrums are a natural part of safety, trust, and autonomy. It’s a healthy aspect of parenting!
But they can become dominating, painful, and totally overwhelming when you’re not quite sure how to navigate them without making them 10x worse.
Finding answers, support, and new ways to travel through tantrums can be a total lifesaver- and certainly a relationship saver for you and your family. Find some help and support in your area, or email me- I’m always here to offer non-judgemental support to parents of strong-willed children looking for a better way!
DO #3: Ask for help!
We are social beings and parenting is meant to be done in a community. When you’re parenting a child with strong wills, life can be isolating, shame storm producing and just plain LONELY! Chances are if you’re reading this article you’re looking for help. Help to learn to enjoy your child again, help to learn how to be a better parent, help to learn how to raise a positive member of society. (No one wants to raise a sociopath psycho murderer #ssdgm)
So reach out and ask for help! There are real answers, real solutions, and real support waiting for you just on the other side of an email!
If you’re not quite ready to email me directly, take my Free Parenting Style Quiz: How Kind is Your Family and learn if you’re being “Too Kind,” “Too Firm,” or “Kind and Firm” and make sure to download the free guide that comes with it! Inside you’ll learn your assets, liabilities, possible outcomes, and some next steps to take!
To round up the article, tantrums happen to us ALL!
As a bonus tip: It’s important to remember H.A.L.T. these are the 4 main tripwires into having a tantrum or a meltdown. Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired- you can read more in my blog post here.
If this helped you, leave a comment in the box below and let me know! I love getting little love notes and look forward to reading YOURS!