Hey guys! Happy Monday!
It’s a brisk, Fall morning here in Maine. My husband is sick (hugs, honey) but he’s working from home like a CHAMP. It’s just the time of year for runny noses and coughs and hiding indoors with a big, warm bowl of soup. (If you are looking for a Pinterest-worthy Fall soup, look no further.)
I’d love to sit here and tell you that things are going peachy on the mom-front, but it seems like parenting is a never-ending string of struggles. Kenna is now cutting canines. Yep, she’s almost 14 months and she’s already getting her teeth that should be erupting 2-6 months from now. *facepalm*
The Temper Tantrum: Every Parent’s Worst Nightmare
Naturally, teething has led Kenna to produce the beloved temper tantrum. Her favorite way to verbally and physically express that she’s upset is to lay on the floor and cry. I swore to myself I’d never be the parent with that kid. But let. me. tell. you. Parenting is tougher than I could have ever imagined.
Sometimes when she’s writhing on the floor I kind of just want to stand and laugh, and other times I want to go hide in the bathroom and cry. But neither of those are good options, if I’m perfectly honest.
So what to do?
1) Take a deep breath
You heard me. You first. Don’t expect your child to channel their inner chakras and magically calm down if you aren’t calm first.
Address them only when you have leveled your head.
2) Figure out what caused your child to get upset in the first place
This will determine how you handle the next steps. For example; if your baby is upset you won’t pick them up, you don’t want to reward the tantrum by picking them up to settle them.
Example: a typical Kenna temper tantrum
Let’s say, Kenna is already in a bad mood because of teething. She’s playing with a toy that makes noise and has buttons. For some weird reason she can’t get it to do what she wants, so she:
- Puts it in her mouth and bites as hard as she can
- Throws it on the ground
- Flails her hands viciously to demonstrate how upset she is
- Starts crying and lays down onto the floor
I’ve identified that the issue is that something about that toy upset her. It might not have upset her if she wasn’t already in a mood, but that’s beside the point. From here I can decide how to react to her tantrum.
3) Make a game plan, express it to your child, and execute
If you plan to pick your baby up and help them take a deep breath, tell them that. I always try to narrate my actions with Kenna because it helps develop her social skills and vocabulary. I also like to try to use emotion words to describe how she’s feeling so that when she can talk, she’ll be able to (hopefully) identify those feelings and tell me.
If your child is a little bit older, try to get them to repeat back to you what you’ll be doing to address the temper tantrum. Try to take every moment as a learning opportunity in parenting; it is whether you make it one or not! Use that to your advantage.
I’ve decided (in the above scenario) that I am going to pick Kenna up and remove the toy from the situation. I’m also going to calm her down with a big hug and we will talk about why the toy made her upset. This is very clearly a one-way conversation right now, but Kenna does know how to express yes and no, and point to objects that she’s interested in. That helps tremendously.
I tell Kenna what we’re going to do, then I execute it. I put the problematic toy somewhere she can’t see it, and after she’s calmed down she can continue to play with a different toy.
Tips and Tricks
The actions you choose to take are going to vary widely based on the scenario, of course. But if you are able to attack the temper tantrum with a level head and be prepared to look at things from your child’s point of view, you’ll be on your way to success.
Am I going to sit here and tell you that every time Kenna gets upset I handle it perfectly? Hell no. Sometimes I just have to walk away for 5 seconds and take a deep breath. She follows me, crying the whole way, and then we address the issue.
1) Take a Break
- One bit of parenting advice I’ve picked up from family is to “take a break” with your upset child, especially if you’re out in public where it’s hard for them to focus. Find a quiet space where you can be one-on-one with your baby or toddler, and address the issue in an environment that’s more conducive to relaxing.
2) CALM DOWN!
- Don’t ask your child to “calm down.” More often than not, your baby is having a hard time figuring out how to handle their emotions in the first place, and it’s no help telling them to do something they aren’t capable of doing in that moment. If they were capable of resolving their emotions on their own, they would have done it in the first place, rather than descending into a temper tantrum.
- Use positive words and try to avoid phrases like “don’t X” “no.” It’s easier for kids to understand what you want from them when they don’t have to reverse the negation in your sentences. Instead say things like “please give me a hug” or “be gentle.” “Put that down nicely” rather than “don’t throw things.” “hands to yourself” rather than “don’t hit” or “don’t touch that.” You can say things like this when your child isn’t upset but it’s really important to try to keep things positive when they are drowning in a sea of emotions.
3) Breathe in, breathe out
- Deep breath. Just as you need to take a breath and regroup before helping your child, it also helps your baby to calm down if they take a deep breath. If your baby doesn’t understand this concept yet, gently blow into their face and they should breathe in sharply. Try to make it fun, and hopefully you’ll get some laughs out of them, too.
4) A vending machine full of snuggles
- Snuggle. Don’t be afraid to ask your child to snuggle you. Often, all Kenna needs is a big hug (by big I mean a 10 minute hug, curled into fetal position on my chest). In their eyes, we are the epitome of a safe place (at least for the first 6 years or so!). Use that and dispense as many snuggles as they need to feel calm again.
5) You’re not alone
- I think this is the most important thing of all: all parents struggle with how to handle a temper tantrum. Regardless of how elaborate, they’re all tantrums. You are not defined by how your child behaves if you’re doing your best to help them navigate it. Don’t be embarrased; emotions are tough enough for us to handle as adults.
- Put yourself in your kid’s shoes, unable to communicate clearly. Sometimes, they just need a little break to regroup and refocus. Give them that opportunity and talk them through it. It won’t necessarily prevent recurring tantrums, but you’ll both be learning from each one in the process.
Hopefully that helps a little bit!
How does your child express anger and frustration? What do you do to handle a temper tantrum? Is it worse in public? One mom to another, here! Let’s chat! This is a judgement free zone.
Until next time,