What This Is Like from a Parent’s Perspective

 

Although many parts of parenting are rough, handling a tantruming child..

… a child who is screaming at the top of their lungs because you won’t give them what they want

… a child who is crying like the world is about to end because they lost a game

… a child who is kicking and flailing because it’s time to leave a friend’s house 

… is one of the most difficult. Because when they’re tantruming, they won’t listen to logic, they won’t change their behavior… they won’t stop.

So you feel helpless and angry and worried… and there’s no way you can keep your cool.

 

What This Is Like from a Child’s Perspective

 

As parents, we must to tell children what they can and can’t do.

 

At the same time, children want to have some say in their lives, so when they hear “no,” or “you can’t do this” or “you can’t have this” or “do that,” all day long, they feel frustrated and angry and out of control. 

And they don’t know how to regulate these big feelings, so..

… they scream at the top of their lungs

… they cry like the world is about to end

… they kick and flail

And then we get even more upset with them, which only makes their emotions and behaviors bigger. And they have no idea how to make things change… 

 

How It Usually Goes When

A Child Tantrums

 

Scenario:

Jade’s mom asks Jade to choose clothes to wear to school the next day, giving her a choice of 2 outfits. Jade doesn’t choose an outfit. Jade’s mom then chooses one herself and Jane starts crying and screaming.

 

Mom (thinks): Are you kidding me?! I just GAVE her a choice and she didn’t make one! And now she’s UPSET?!  That doesn’t make sense!

Mom (says in a frustrated tone): Jade, I just gave you a choice and you didn’t say which one you wanted.

Jade: I want a different outfit!

Mom (thinks): But these are her two favorite outfits! She’s not even making sense. I know she’ll look for another outfit and not find anything… and then she’ll cry even more! 

Mom (says): No, Jade. It has to be one of these two.

Jade (cries even harder).

Mom (thinks): This is crazy! Why is she so upset over an outfit?!

Mom (says): Jade, it’s only an outfit… Just choose one and let’s get dressed. If you don’t, you want have any time left to play.

Jade (screeches): That’s not fair!!

Mom (thinks): If she would have just chosen an outfit, she’d have time. She’s doing this to herself…

Mom: Jade, if you pick something NOW you’ll still have time!

Jade (is crying too hard to move).

Jade’s mom is frustrated that Jade is being so illogical. She feels completely helpless and more impatient as thinks about how late it’s getting.

 

How It COULD Go When

A Child Tantrums

 

Scenario:

Jade’s mom asks Jade to choose clothes to wear to school the next day, giving her a choice of 2 outfits. Jade doesn’t choose an outfit. Jade’s mom then chooses one herself and Jane starts crying and screaming.

 

Mom (thinks): I just GAVE her a choice and she didn’t make one! And now she’s UPSET?!  That doesn’t make sense!

Mom: Jade, I just gave you a choice and you didn’t say which one you wanted.

Jade: I want a different outfit!

Mom (thinks): But these are her two favorite outfits! Hmm… What’s really going on here?

Mom: Jade… You seem like you’re having a hard time. 

Jade (keeps crying).

Mom (thinks): Yeah, she’s upset about more than the outfit. Ugh, how frustrating! I don’t have time for this… I have so much to do today! But… I know that if I get frustrated with her when she’s upset, she’ll take LONGER to get out of it.

Mom (softly): Jade, do you need a hug?

Jade (rudely): NO! Leave me alone! 

Mom (thinks): She doesn’t want a hug? And how she’s being rude? I can’t let her get away with that… Except that dealing with this now won’t do ANY good.

What else can I possibly do make this go better? … Well wait, what do I want when I’m upset? Not much. I just want someone to leave me alone. But not in a mean way.

Mom: Jade, I’m right here. (She waits quietly but doesn’t say anything else.)

Jade (keeps crying). 

Mom (thinks): I hope this doesn’t take long!! We have to be somewhere…. (Pauses.) Wait, when I think about that it just makes me more upset. And when I’m more upset, Jade’s more upset. If I really want to help Jade — and make this go faster — I’m just going to focus on staying calm myself. Otherwise this will get out of control.

Jade’s mom focuses on her own breathing. Eventually Jade comes over to her mom and sits in her lap. They cuddle for a few minutes and finally Jade chooses an outfit.
Jade’s mom thinks about how much longer this situation would have taken if she’d lost her cool.

 

What Must Happen If You Want to Stay Calm In the Moment

 

If Jade’s mom had been Yuck herself, she would NOT have been able to change the story in her head, and things would have gone much differently. 

 

Remember that you will only be able to stay calm when:

a.) your own biological or emotional “needs accounts” are met (otherwise you won’t have a reserve to draw from and you’ll immediately go into Yuck)

b.) you don’t have the expectation that your children will have the same priorities that you do

When you make sure your own needs are met and you set realistic expectations PROACTIVELY, you are more likely to be able to stay calm.