In a World of Tantrums
How we can make the most of them…
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There are lots of different situations that can lead our little ones into what feels like a never-ending whirlwind of tantrums — whether it’s from transitioning from one activity to the next, to not being able to wear a bathing suit outside in the middle of the winter, to not being able to sleep with the Christmas garland. When we tell our little ones that famous one word “no” their emotions can go off the rails.
Whatever the case may be, a tantrum is the same all around and sometimes they can be challenging to handle in the moment. So let’s talk about what a tantrum is and how you can help our little ones through them together.
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What is a tantrum?
A tantrum is simply an uncontrolled outburst of anger that happens when the world is not going according to your little one.
In the first 6 years of life your little one emotionally flies by the seat of their pants!
When emotions get the best of them, they simply cannot think logically — that part of the brain shuts down, literally. Logic has left the building. So, in the moment of a tantrum, there is no talking sense with them.
The same actually happens with us too and our emotions. When a situation gets the best of us, and we get angry or upset, we can often become more reactive than responsive. That’s why taking a deep breath and gathering your center is so important (taking a moment for yourself), so you can actually think before you react. We too need to be aware of our “hot buttons”. In doing so, you are modeling for your kids how to handle situations that aren’t going your way!
So, imagine you are getting ready to leave and your little one is playing nicely in their bedroom. You go in there and say, “Are you ready to go the store/preschool?” and they respond back “No”.
Then you think wait, it’s not a question, let me rephrase that, “Actually, I didn’t mean this as a question. I meant to say, it’s time to go to the store.” Only to get the same response.
Which of course you then move in to help the situation along, “No, it’s time to put these blocks away, we need to leave now.” Only to be confronted with more opposition because your little one is having a hard time transitioning from one activity to the next. Maybe they start to throw things, swing their arms at you, or simply just meltdown.
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What’s a parent to do?
There are several things that will help you get through these moments. Some of them will be the way you approach the situation before it happens and others will be when the tantrum is over. Here are three things to help you move forward with tantrums.
The Power of “No”
One of the most powerful trigger words for our kids is the word “No”. We say it a lot in very different iterations…
Stop it. Don’t do that. No, you’re not allowed. I said no. Come here. Hurry up, and put that away. No ice cream today.
And the list goes on, right?
Well, the good news is there are a bunch of other things you can say instead of “no”. So, when approaching a situation you know may have push back from your little one (and often leads to a tantrum for them), you want to come from a place where you know that it’s going to be difficult for them and choose your words wisely. For instance…
You really wish you could. You really want to keep playing. There will be a better time. Did you forget? I need you. We need to go faster and be on time. Yes, we can… On a different day.
Changing how you phrase things can really make a difference in how your little one responds. I know it’s hard to find those words in the moment. But start to catch when and where you say “No” and think about how next time you want to handle the phrasing differently. It’s hard to change habits, but being aware of them is the first start.
Just know, this will not necessarily make the tantrums disappear off the bat — but they will get better over time.
Empathize + Validate
You want to wait until your little calms their body before you try and say anything. You can be with them in those moments, but you need to wait for the outburst to pass.
Then, you want to let them know you understand. It can be as simple as, “I know you want to still play with those toys. You are really enjoying them.” OR “I see you’re upset and want to still play with those toys.” Often times your little one wants to simply be seen and heard.
Your little wants to know that someone is on their team and “gets” them. And how great that you, their parent, get to be that person!
It’s not about solving the problem for your little one. It’s a-ok that they’re upset. And then, on the flip side, remember it’s also important to avoid statements that are dismissive of how your little one is feeling.
We want to avoid statements like, “It’s not a big deal,” “It’s ok,” “There is no need to cry,” “Why are you crying?”, etc. These statements connote your little one should not be having these feelings; they don’t validate how he is feeling. This current situation at hand (whatever the case may be for this tantrum) is a BIG deal to your little one, and we will support them through that.
Your little one wants to be seen and heard, so offering encouragement that helps notice their efforts will go far in reproducing that behavior. They want to get it right… they will aim to please with the right kind of encouragement.
So, after your little one has a tantrum and you work through it together, notice your little one’s efforts. It doesn’t have to be right away… in fact, it can be before bedtime too. A simple,
“I noticed you picked up some of my blue toy blocks this morning when you were in charge of the yellow ones. That was really helpful.”
One of the best pieces of advice I received in relation to encouragement was that if I focused on my child being “good” I am looking to have them please others. I so personally resonated with that comment.
The best place to start with encouragement is to focus on your little one’s accomplishments instead. Spell it out for them. Describe exactly what you see. Your little one processes information in images, so offer them images that their mind can record.
I know it can be hard to see in the moment what good has come of the tantrum situation, but it’s there. Find that thing and notice your little one. It will fill their bucket and encourage connection too.
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ONE LAST THING…
If you need a little extra guidance in figuring out how to help your little one in those tough moments, I’ve got ya! Go here to schedule a FREE 15-minute call with me, and we can chat about it! Better yet, join my Healthy Little Village where you can ask questions, read more about behavior, and connect with me live every month!
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OH, ONE MORE THING!
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If you have little ones, I’m sure you’ll love it!
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