Working with tantrums…the boys’ and my own


We all have had those mad bad days…a day when a kid has been whiny, annoying, bent on rebelling, bent on fighting and messing things up for you or his siblings…and days when you are stressed and stretched with deadlines to meet and your patience has worn thin. There is something on the kitchen stove, you are at your computer getting a presentation done, and the kids are not doing a single thing you requested them to…And then something snaps and you have one of those evil parent moments you would rather forget. You snap, yell, say something mean, ground the kid or take away something he likes, and something else too because you are on a roll… and threaten to not read any books at bedtime. And then he yells back and runs off to his room while you storm off to yours wondering what had just happened.

Happens to a lot of us…it does…and we are human and allowed to lose it sometimes. But what is more important, now having realized that this really wasn’t how we wanted to deal with things, is what we do after this whole tantrum and meltdown.

Calm down: First of all, calm down, cool off. For some of us that is quick, for some it takes longer. But it is important to give ourselves a little time to simmer down and feel calm. (a follow up conversation when one is mad is probably going to go the same way..again). So finish your work, or take a deep breath, or a walk or shower, or whatever it is that relaxed you.

Reach out: Once you are feeling calmer, go find your kid. He may be upset too and may not want to come running to you and hug you just because you feel ready. Tell him you would like to talk to him. Tell him you are sorry for reacting how you did…explain to him why you got upset and why you are feeling bad for the way you behaved. Do not justify your behavior – it was not the best! Do not defend your actions – simply express what you feel went wrong and how you feel about the way you acted.

Ask your child to talk to you. Ask him how is feeling. Ask him if he felt bad or sad or scared when you got upset. And be okay with his response. He needs to be able to tell you what he felt even though you may not like it. My three year old told me he thought i was an angry mama T-Rex and that he was scared of me. And that I was bad bad bad! It’s fine. Not very flattering but that is probably what I made him feel.

Use his response to apologize again – for the things that you said and the things that he felt. If he does not talk or express himself, then you put down what you felt was wrong and apologize for it anyway.

Give him a hug or a kiss or a cuddle. Communicate that you love him and love him unconditionally, even when you are angry or mad about something. And tell him that mommy makes mistakes too. And then, figure out on your own or with your kids a strategy to ensure that this does not happen again. I have asked mine to tell me when they see me getting upset or building myself into a bit of a frenzy. Just one of them piping in to say “mom – you are getting too upset” or “mom, calm down” helps me stop and rethink my actions. And for myself, somewhere I need to also work out a strategy to slow down when I see myself starting to get upset.

It might help to write down a simple strategy in bold where we can see it regularly – because this will help our kids think about their own behavior too. And perhaps reflect on it every now and then both on my own and together with the kids so we know how we are doing.

(this thought process stems from my meltdown this morning with one of the kids and I really felt like vocalizing it and my thinking would help me as well as others who may be struggling with something similar. WOuld love to hear from other mommies on how to deal with meltdown moments!)


About myfourboysandme

Mom - a word that defines me... I smell of oats, johnson's and home baked cookies I am pink, purple, green and orange and so is the floor my kids color on. Flour on my clothes and a brush in my pocket, my glasses bent out of shape and smudged with tiny fingerprints. I can't remember the date but i know almost 40 pictures books by heart. I wake up humming 'wheels on the bus'and i talk with my fingers and eyes and mouth. My bag carries band aids, napkins, wipes, crayons, papers, candy and sometimes my wallet. I know all the parks and very few of the restaurants in my neighborhood. Most of my shopping is diapers, books and paints My phd certificate lies in a roll, the frame now contains an abstract work of art by two year olds and i am prouder of that piece of paper. mom - a word that defines me!

3 responses »

  1. This talks entirely about our outburst. Agreed, it is best avoided. And duly apologised if unfair. But it is also usually the result of something the kid did. How do you address that part of the deal?
    My LO is 2.5 and while we have no qualms making it up to him, he wants to ignore his behaviour entirely. He resorts to indifference and denial. He’s probably just being playful, but the correction of the act or any sort of apology doesn’t happen, he just wants us to start playing and talking to him (even if we are just pretending to be angry – which is mostly the case – so he gets the point). Removal of privileges (toys, time out etc) don’t work. He doesn’t miss the toys and time out has become a game. I suppose it is just his age, do they understand better when they’re 3 or older?

    • Hi Pradha, good question. At 2.5 the child is actually very egocentric (which is not a bad thing, just a state of being.) This means he sees things from HIS perspective and also works with the assumption that it is the only perspective. When you think differently, he does not get that. Also for him, instant responses are better. he may not correlate something told to him much later after the fact with what happened. I am not sure they understand much better at 3 but it definitely improves going forward, as they are slowly able to start empathizing, seeing and understanding other points of view, getting a sense of cause and effect, etc.
      In the interim, I think our role is to consistently model expected behavior – keep reinforcing strategies you want him to use and use them yourselves. If you expect him not to yell when he is upset, then we need to do that do. And then, when we do yell, whatever the provocation, we owe him an apology and an explanation. And show him ways to do it differently – so instead of throwing his toys when he is mad, he can run to a “comfort/thinking’ corner and sit, or in stead of grabbing something from another person, stop and ask for a turn, etc. Give him tools to negotiate or do things more appropriately.
      Also the other thing I have realized (easier said than done) is that often their behavior may not be with the intent of annoying us – i remember my three year old squeezing toothpaste (ALL of it) out of the tube and all over a clean room to see how much was in it. Or another who broke a plastic alarm clock to see what was making it work. Of course the explanation comes later – we only see the mess and it is really annoying sometimes. But taking that minute to probe gently may help diffuse things a bit.
      my post really came as a reflection after my own outburst and I realized that i really wasn’t behaving the way we wanted our kids to 😦

      • Right. I guess the only thing for us to try is to set the right example. As for the toothpaste and similar stuff, you’re right. He’s just a kid having fun, so how much ever the damage, we have to pause and laugh at it. Coz it is meant to be harmless.

        P.S. Off topic – I was trying to locate the Facebook post that connected me to your blog, but can’t find it anymore! Do you remember which group it was on?

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