We all do that – it’s an automatic reaction all human beings share – we want to stop tantrums, make the pain and the suffering stop. We also want peace, and quite. But we’re actually sabotaging our efforts. Here’s why.
I know what you’re thinking – “this is my child and I don’t want him to suffer because he can’t have a snack now / we have to leave / he wants more / less or whatever of something. I want him to understand this is not so bad”! Right?
But the fact of the matter is that trying to stop a tantrum, after it had already begun, is like trying to stop a falling tree from falling: it’s going to fall. Whether we like it or not. The only aspects of it that we can control is how affected we are be by it, and how we are going to let it affect our little ones.
When we, parents, set limits – our children have the right to feel however they want to feel about this set limit. They are already in the midst of experiencing these emotions of anger, frustration, or sadness – and we can’t make it stop. By trying to stop the tantrum – we are actually making it worse. Much worse.
Where do Tantrums Really Come From?
Anger and frustration, with children and adults alike, stem from a place of not being seen, not being heard, and the more general feeling of not being taken into consideration and not being able to control my life the way I want to control my life.
Think about it and recall the last time you were angry – to sum it up, you were feeling out of control over your own life, right?
Kids do want the snack, the extra TV show and the additional ride on whatever – but above all these – they need to know they are in control. They need the sense of autonomy.
Stopping Tantrums doesn’t Stop Tantrums
When we try to stop these unpleasant feelings we’re telling the child that he’s feelings are not right, that he is not right. Since what we have in mind is that snack, we (with all our years of experience) diminish the importance of what’s behind it – the unmet need for autonomy.
When we try to distract (oh look! A bird!) we teach our little ones that their feelings don’t matter. When we say “common, it’s not a big deal” we teach them that they are wrong in their assessment of the situation and that their feelings towards it are wrong. We teach them that we know better about how they are feeling.
Think about yourself – when you’re sad or angry – does it help to hear that you really shouldn’t be upset, that it’s not a big deal, and that you are not looking at it the right way?
All these words will increase your anger and frustration: not only that they don’t change the situation in your favor, but they also tell you that you are alone with that feeling.
The same is correct for children and this is the reason for which trying to stop tantrums will forever make it worse. When we choose to not give them what they want – we NEED to give them what they NEED – which is being seen, heard, and accepted upon everything that lives in them in that moment.
Parents’ Biggest Mistake Considering Tantrums
Sure, no one wants their children to be frustrated and experience big and unpleasant emotions, that’s a given. But these feelings’ presence in our lives is another given. At every age. There’s nothing we can do about it.
Many parents think that it’s their job to make their children feel better, and this is the biggest mistake parents (and people!) do. In reality, our job is to help our little ones cope with their feelings, understand them, and empower them while at it. Our job is to focus on the future, on who they will grow to become and how well they will be able to manage themselves in this world. The present moment is the tiniest and most insignificant moment in one’s life experience – yet it is, also, the most powerful learning experience.
If we neglect this learning opportunity and disable our children’s feelings we will see an increase in frustration, anger, and sadness. We will feel a bigger disconnection with our children as they grow up.
If, on the other hand, we embrace this learning opportunity, open our hearts and join our children in their pain, help them process the rainbow of VALID, RIGHT, and RIGHTFUL emotions – we will teach them how to cope with big emotions and meet their deepest needs of autonomy, authentic self expression, and connection.
Isn’t that all what we, human beings, want?
The Empowering Way to Handle Tantrums
Switch your agenda. If “stop tantrum and make him feel better” was your compass until now, switch to “help him cope better and empower his feelings”.
When we want to change something (like someone else’s feelings) we’re teaching him that his feelings are invalid. Instead, sit down next to him and, with sheer curiosity, open your heart and join him wherever he is.
“You’re upset with mommy now, are you? You really wanted x and you can’t understand why it isn’t possible? You’re disappointed for not being able to follow your wishes and your decisions? Oh sweetie, I know it hurts”.
These are my words, use yours. Give it a try next time (today?) I promise you that what until now could be a 20-minute emotional outburst will resolve in 50% of the time.
No More Tantrums: Empowering Children to Peace of Mind
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In this book I go in-depth into what children really need, what their words really mean, and how to live a family life of compassion and cooperation, reducing fights and power struggles to the minimum.
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