Don’t Be Afraid of Tantrums

Reality – emotions are difficult. Your child has to learn how to cope with them. Helping them learn is your job. If they never experience them, they won’t learn how to cope with them.

I participate in several positive parenting and peaceful parenting forums. One of the things I’ve noticed is that many parents are afraid of their children’s tantrum. Like – if their child throws a tantrum they have failed as a parent and are ruining their kids.

It’s ok that a child throws a tantrum. Yes, it’s frustrating, scary and upsetting to you as the parent. It’s also scary, frustrating and upsetting for your child. But your child needs to learn how to deal with difficult emotions and you can use tantrums as learning opportunities.

So let’s discuss ways parents can help their child through their tantrums and learn how to cope with big emotions and not getting our way.

I am a big fan of time outs.  I know lots of parents are opting for time ins, that’s fine too. The goal is to make space for the tantrum to happen in a way that doesn’t harm the child or others. My son and I would go into his room and throw pillows around and scream until he felt better and we started laughing.

Don't use time outs as punishment!

Time outs are not a punishment. They aren’t meant to be alone time. It is a time to focus on the emotions the child is having, allowing them to experience the emotion and giving them the time they need to calm down.

Only after the tantrum has finished and the child has calmed down can you help them process what happened rationally, and even then, only if they are old enough to talk.

I am always amazed at parents who complain that they tried talking their 2 year old rationally about how hurt they, the parent is, by the child’s behavior and they don’t understand why the kid just continues to tantrum.  Yeah – here’s a hint. You cannot rationalize with someone (a child or an adult) who is in the throes of a tantrum. They aren’t capable of being rational in that moment. That is why they are having a tantrum. Let the tantrum run its course AND then discuss it.

What my son learned from us making space for him to have his big emotions was that he didn’t need to be afraid of them because we weren’t afraid of them. When he gets upset, he gives himself a time out to have his emotions in a way that doesn’t negatively impact other people unnecessarily.

We always discussed how silly we were when we tantrum so that he can learn to find humor even in his darkest moments.

The final thing he learned is that he is never got his way because he threw a tantrum. Mom never acquiesced, but she did comfort. And finally he learned that if he really wants something, he needs to speak to me rationally, because I do no negotiate anything when emotions are running high.

Don’t be afraid of your child’s tantrum. Help them learn how to cope with their emotions and save your rationalizations and negotiations for a time when your child has a semblance of a chance of hearing what you have to say.

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