What do YOU do when your child is throwing a tantrum?
I can tell you my initial reaction is to make threats. And I do follow through with them. The threats are typically, “If you don’t stop doing X, I’m going to have to take away Y.” Sometimes, it works. I get my way. She’ll stop whatever misbehavior it is and then we move on. It never feels good though.
Other times, the threats and following through with them just make it worse. The yelling gets more intense, the tantrum gets more out of control and no threats or actions will bring it back down to a reasonable discord. And what’s worse, if I make threats or even start to yell, she’ll turn around and use that same behavior to her little brother, who then gets upset and then we’re all upset! And it really gets to me that I’m creating this house of negativity and anger.
I fall into this routine more often than I’d like to admit, so I’m not going to sit here and claim I’m some perfect parenting guru. But this only means that I get to have lots of opportunities to fix it!
I usually start off trying to control the tantrum with threats and then about a half hour into the yelling (sometimes from both of us), I realize that I’m getting no where and so if I want the situation to change, I’d better change my tactics.
I don’t want to be yelling at my 6 year old. I don’t want her to behave that way, so why am I modeling that behavior to her?
I’ll give you a quick example of what happened just the other day.
It just just about bed time. Sophia was upset over not having computer time that day due to her misbehavior the previous night at bedtime. I knew she was angry about it and tired from the day, so I could logically see why her frustration turned into yelling and crying about it.
I started to make the threats.
“If you don’t stop that fussing, you won’t get computer time tomorrow either!”
“If you don’t go brush your teeth and put on your pajamas right now, you won’t get to play with your DS either!” (DS is referring to her Nintendo DS system)
“If you don’t go to your room right now, I’m going to have to take away your flashlight tonight!”
Even though as an adult I can see the cause and effect of each threat and if I were given a similar threat I could then readjust my behavior, my 6 year old can only process what a 6 year old can process. She does not have all the experience I do in life. All she knows is that she is upset and mad and now I’m listing off other things that make her upset and mad. It’s not a very productive or helpful way to solve a problem, is it?
So I’m standing in her doorway holding the baby, as she’s yelling and screaming in her room about how she wishes I wasn’t there and on and on.
I knew that I was out of threats and none of it worked. So I took a deep breath and walked to her and just started hugging her. I got down on her level and hugged her. Then I put down the baby, who started to fuss and it when this moment that I said something out loud without really thinking about it: “You’re okay, Leila (baby), right now my first baby needs me.”
That thought, that idea, hit me. Yes! She needs me. My 6 year old just needs me right now.
When she falls and gets hurt, she wants me. So of course, when she’s hurting emotionally, she needs me. She was still angry and saying mean things, but I sat down and pulled her into my lap. I started rocking her and kissing her head and occasionally whispering that I loved her. Then I started singing very softly to her and slowly, she quieted down.
As I rocked her, I thought of what we could do together right then and there. And it was simple.
“Would you like to color in your princess coloring book with me? Just you and me?”
Her face lit up! She hugged me and apologized and excitedly started telling me about her ideas on how we can color different pages together. And we did. We sat on her floor and colored and chatted quietly and calmly.
This was such a major WIN!
I want love to conquer all in my house. She still felt the consequences, still was upset over no computer time, but she felt heard and most importantly loved.