FYI: This is the fourth newsletter in my “Kids gone sideways” series, about how we can get back on track when our kids drive us crazy .
Click here for the first in the series, about the intersection of our own self-worth and our children’s hangry meltdowns, and click here for the story of my second-worst day of potty training ever. Next week we will dive into dealing with disrespect in the final installment, so stay tuned!
What do you believe about temper tantrums?
I wouldn’t blame you if your answer was: “I believe they should not exist!”
It is super frustrating that temper tantrums are a thing in the world.
It feels as if they do no good at all.
They are an intrusion into a happy family life, right?
But here’s the thing, temper tantrums are stepping stones on the way to a happy family life.
They are developmental necessities, key milestones in the social and emotional development of children.
I know that’s hard to believe, but it’s true.
Consider what’s happening in your child’s development, when the temper tantrums really get rolling:
– A tremendous increase in understanding of the language spoken around them
– The acquisition of new vocabulary words at a seriously rapid rate
– A much larger ability to take in information, than the capacity to express themselves using language
It’s that last one that I want to bring your attention to.
Starting around the beginning of toddlerhood, when kids are expanding their ability to explore their own world, neurons form in their brains faster than we can imagine.
They are like gigantic sponges, taking in information and doing their best, in their little toddler brains, to synthesize it all and make sense of their world.
Meltdowns can happen because they’re not able to express themselves. Sometimes they’re not even able to make sense of all the information coming in.
Which is why we see, for example, kids who simultaneously want their shoes on and off at the same time.
We know this is impossible; they do not.
They only know what they want. What they want to see happen in the world, what they want to have in their mouths, what they want to feel with their hands, what they want to express with their words and actions.
And the meltdowns happen because it is all just too much. They’re overwhelmed, things are not as they expected, the disconnect between brain and mouth causes discord, and temper tantrums are the only way they have of releasing all this pent-up energy and frustration.
So, that’s why, developmentally, temper tantrums are necessary.
But they’re still not awesome, are they?
I want to share a tool with you today, something to help you weather the meltdowns storms.
It’s the HEART method of handling every temper tantrum, which I go into far more detail in my first book, Positive Discipline Ninja Tactics.
Here are the basics:
H = Haven.
Before – or likely between – meltdowns, I recommend that you dedicate a space where your child can safely melt down. A beanbag, a bunch of pillows, maybe a stuffed friend to hug when necessary; it doesn’t have to take up lots of space or require any special equipment (the beanbag, while nice, is completely optional!)
Then when your child begins to melt down, you’ve got a place to bring them. You can choose to stay with them, or say to them “when you’re ready I’ll be out here.”
E = Empathy.
Try to put yourself in your young child’s position. While on the surface, maybe whatever is causing this tantrum doesn’t seem like a big deal to you. But to them, it’s huge. It’s big enough that it caused a blockage between brain and mouth, they couldn’t simply say what was so upsetting; instead, it became meltdown city.
Communicating that you understand, and that you’re there for them, can do wonders for helping them get through tantrums quicker.
A = Abide.
While they are having a meltdown, our job is to ride it out. Abide, as The Dude says in The Big Lebowski. Deep breaths, thinking to ourselves that it will be over soon. Simply abiding.
R = Reintegration.
After my sons were finished with a tantrum, I had to really clamp down on my own sarcastic remarks. I’d want to say something like “back to the land of the living?” but I stopped myself because I knew they would not understand my sarcasm. I knew it wouldn’t be helpful, or healthy.
So, how can you help your child reintegrate into your day? Maybe you could read a book together, or maybe it’s a simple as a quick hug – and then on into whatever activity you were doing.
T = Trust.
Over the course of the many temper tantrums your young child will have – my kids finally grew out of tantrums around age 6, although they became far less frequent after about age 4 – what you’re doing is developing their trust. We do this through, as much as possible (no one is perfect!), sticking with H, E, A, and R above.
Building a relationship that is based on trust: that’s what kids need most of all.
The tantrums will happen. The question is, how will we respond?
Responding well means close bonds, over time. It means children who are given the time and space to figure out the world and what happens in it.
It means – eventually, anyway – they figure out that they can’t have their shoes simultaneously on and off.
It means they come to understand that that is simply the way of the world, and they live with it.
When we utilize HEART we help them understand the world.
But most importantly we help them understand they can trust us as they are learning to navigate the world.
Thanks for reading!
Keep reading below for What’s up on the podcast/In the Facebook group/in NPC…
Wishing you a wonderful parenting week!
What’s up on the podcast this week:
What we believe creates our reality. So, what do you believe?
What’s up in the We Turned Out Okay Facebook group this week:
This past Monday’s Magic Words for Parents is a close (and quickie) case study of belief creating reality.
Check it out by clicking here to join our Facebook group!
What’s up in the Ninja Parenting Community:
We talk about a new ninja tactic for managing our kids’ behavior, highlighted by one of our original NPC members!
(If you’re not a member yet, but want to become one, click here.)
PS – If you’re enjoying this Weekly Parenting Newsletter, click here so you can sign up to receive it in your inbox, or forward it to a friend who needs a parenting boost today.