Tantrums

(continued from page 1)

Yes, your ears will probably still hurt, and here’s the distinction: sometimes a child is doing something as an expression of frustration, etc. This is a real need but it’s an outgoing thing.

Sometimes a child is doing something in an attempt to have a very real need met–this is a request for assistance. if that request is immature and *abusive* then you need to teach them how to make a more mature and beneficial request but sometimes the need must be met first–for example, it’s not right to make an overtired child not go to sleep until they can tell you calmly that they’re tired.

It’s also better to not create new additional needs that escalate the situation. for example, if a child is going through a phase or is just a child who has extreme abandonment fears such that leaving the room creates extreme anxiety then walking away or forcing isolation is not going to be the ideal way to deal with aggression from them. For them holding and the Bear Hug would likely be better. So, in dealing with a child demanding something in an attacking manner (what they are demanding may be a very real need but the way they are demanding it is immature) if you walk away you create a new need which escalates the situation (now they need what they were demanding AND they feel abandoned).

Instead, if you can *tune them out* until they start to run out of steam (or, depending on what the real need is provide it–i.e. I would simply give food or water or a hug if that is what was clearly needed even if that isn’t what they were demanding) then you can capture the teachable moment and offer instruction for how to handle it better next time–maybe even practicing. This is hard to do because it requires that you deal with your intense feelings about how you’re being treated without *getting away* which we sometimes need. But it can be done and if *getting away* is creating MORE anxiety then it’s worth trying.

 

QUESTION:

What do I do about the screaming? My son had a tantrum in WalMart the other day, and he screamed SOOOOOOO loud! I was really angry at him.

Answer:

My response to screaming in my face depends on the child and the situation. In the WalMart scenario I would have picked up my child and the coat and walked to the car where I would have put it on them privately. If they were cold in the meantime and asked for the coat I would stop and put it on them. I refuse to engage in power struggles that are related to their own comfort. I won’t force my child to be comfortable. AND the distance from the store to the car isn’t going to be enough to create a health hazard.

With Liam, when he would scream like that I would take him in a gentle but firm bear hug and cuddle him until he got control again and could release his tension. With Fiona I stand by and wait until she’s done. With her, any talking on my part is met with fierce protection of her personal space and I’ve come to respect that. Once I started respecting that I was able to teach her some better ways to tell me she needs space. In public, I would pick her up and remove her to a private place and more appropriate place.

The big key is to not be afraid of their big negative feelings. They need to know that you aren’t afraid of them and that they don’t have the power to control you with their feelings–otherwise their feelings become big and scary to them. Your actions need to convey the message, “I’m bigger and more powerful than even your biggest, yuckiest feelings. You don’t scare me. I will help you behave appropriately even when you have yucky feelings.” *That* is authority.

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