When discussing this post with Olivia I said, “I don’t think I’m qualified to give advice about managing tantrums.” She said that no one is. With that in mind, I want to share a little about how I’ve been managing tantrums, what’s worked and what hasn’t… and what I resorted to that I’m not proud of.
With Dom, we were lucky enough to make it through the twos and threes relatively untouched by tantrums. Connor is a different story. He’s a very strong-willed child who is quick to resort to yelling and anger when things don’t go his way.
We’d been struggling with getting him to bed; sometimes he wasn’t asleep before 9.30pm or 10. So, we decided to drop his day nap. He was sleeping anywhere from one to three hours during the day. The unfortunate side effect has been the emergence of tantrums.
Connor in tantrum mode is loud… very loud… screaming the one thing he wants over and over. He also thrashes, hits and kicks.
The most recent tantrum was triggered because he’d been removed from the pool for hitting Dom for not playing the way Connor wanted him to. As I carried his flailing body inside he screamed I WANT TO GO BACK IN THE POOL over and over at ever increasing volume and levels of distress. He hit me deliberately and I also received a few kicks, although these weren’t intentional.
Here’s what I did that had no effect:
Held him. This resulted in much hitting.
Shushed him. No change.
Reasoned with him. Explaining the reason why he was removed from the pool had no effect.
Offered him new options. I said his choices now were to have supper or to go straight to bed. He kept screaming.
Here’s what I did that I’m not proud of:
Wrestled him into his pyjamas. I actually held him down and forced his pyjamas on him all while he screamed and thrashed. I hated myself for doing this, but I was at a point where I felt I needed to get him as far removed from being able to get back in the pool as possible. And show him I was serious about his supper or bed options.
Shut him in his room. After around 15 minutes of tantrum I left his bedroom and held the door shut. It took 30 seconds for him to start crying and telling me he wanted a cuddle. I don’t think that isolating him when he’s clearly upset and unable to regulate his behaviour is the right course of action, but I was running out of options. I’m not proud of doing this even though it was the one thing that worked.
Here’s what I did that I am proud of:
Stayed calm. I remained calm and spoke soothingly throughout the entire ordeal. As soon as he asked for the cuddle I opened the door and gave him hugs.
Connor proceeded to cry himself out in a much calmer manner while we sat in the hallway cuddling. He continued to ask to go back in the pool but there was no more screaming and hitting. Eventually he decided on supper and it was all over.
You know… I don’t know whether telling this story has any goal other than to let other parents know they’re not alone. When our children are throwing tantrums we don’t necessarily have the clarity of mind to make the best decisions. At the end of it, your child is safe and loved and I think that’s the most important thing we can provide as parents.
During my time at university where I gained my Degree in Education, a few things stick out. One of the things that has stayed with me is the physical effects on children during tantrums.
Tantrums are usually caused when a lot of frustrations are built up, these little ones don’t know how to process all these feelings and it usually comes out in a burst. Tantrums are actually a good thing as it lets all that emotion release and their mind is beginning to clear. During the “tantrum storm” there is not much else they can do. If as a loving parent or caregiver you are wanting to explain why something can’t happen or the like, they cannot hear it. Their brains are not able to hear and process while in the thick of an emotional release.
One thing you can do is keep your calm! Don’t complicate the situation but adding your own frustrations.
This is normal. They are learning how to process their emotion which builds their resilience, encourages them to try new things, and rewards their determination with a sense of achievement.