My daughter (age 3) has horrible tantrums! What do I do? I really only want her to be happy!
As for the “happy is the only acceptable emotion”, well, it’s just not. Nor should it be. You can’t set a boundary and make her happy about it. She needs to see that you aren’t afraid of her feelings. You aren’t a failure if she’s unhappy or has a tantrum. In fact, in children under 5 I don’t even consider them tantrums, rather meltdowns and frustration explosions. Tantrums implies that the child is attempting to manipulate you with their display, if your response to meltdowns is to instantly give in then you will teach your child to tantrum, otherwise, you can simply respond appropriately to the meltdown and teach them this is not how we get what we want.
When she has a meltdown how does she like you to respond? Does she want to be held or given space? Do this. If you’re in a place where you can’t give her space (out in public sometimes) then take her to a place where it’s safe (the car or home). I would carry my child to the car so that toys aren’t even an option. Fly them like a plane or a fairy if they resist. And it’s just okay for them to be unhappy about going to the car.
When my kids tantrum I do a few different things depending on the child–with my extrovert I clearly state my boundaries and/or expectations after reflecting his feelings “You are (frustrated, angry, etc). You may be . . . but you may not (hurt me, scream, call names, etc).” and then I hug him tight. With my introvert I state any expectations if needed and then give her space. As she starts to calm down I reflect her feelings and when she is calm I correct and teach.
If a *tantrum* is really a frustration explosion I try to respect the feelings behind it. I’d work on teaching better ways when the moment has passed. “You just had very big feelings. Next time (hit a pillow, do a dance, run to me for a hug, etc).”
Sometimes we have to find a way to enforce the boundary while still meeting very real needs and when children are melting down this often is the case. if you can’t find the balance it’s better to step away and regroup rather than stay and escalate things, but staying and keeping the boundary is often better.
I can only explain it with the idea of “tune her out”. Really–keep your physical presence so she doesn’t feel abandoned but shut out the abuse. As long as she’s not physically attacking you (which I would stop immediately and definately separate from) try to assume a positive intent (she doesn’t realize how loud she’s being and that it hurts your ears–even if you’ve told her) and ignore her attempts to get your attention until she behaves in an appropriate way.
Chances are she’ll keep trying different things to see what reaction you get and when she starts doing that you can suggest what would be appropriate and get your attention. “When you’re ready to speak calmly I will listen again.” The key is waiting until she’s able and willing to listen to that instruction before offering it–where it will fall on deaf ears.
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.
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.
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 my oldest, 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.
The big problem with doing something to try and make them stop is that they learn this is a way to behave if you want something. I’ve learned to ignore the stares of anyone who might watch. I’ve always said that parents should be judged not by the behavior of their children, but by their reaction to it. Your child is an individual who is learning how to behave. You get to deal with today’s choices and work to teach a better one for tomorrow.
Usually after a situation is over I will summarize for my child what the lesson needed to be–not in an “I told you so” piggy backing way, but in a “Let’s make sure we’re on the same page” way. So I might say, “You didn’t like what I did. You were very angry. You may be angry. You may not scream at me like that. Do you understand? How will you say it next time?” But I deal with the feelings before I try to move to the teaching, otherwise I don’t really have an audience.
And being under stress isn’t an excuse to misbehave. I would still be setting kind and firm boundaries. “I can see that something is wrong. You may tell me what it is. You may not scream in my face.” The nice thing about GBD is you are working to learn the cause of the misbehavior while you are addressing the misbehavior. It doesn’t matter what’s causing it for the aspect of setting healthy boundaries. Whether it’s intentional or not you deal with it the same. Uncovering the cause just helps you heal the problem.
My almost-two year old (20 months) has horrible tantrums. I spank and spank, but if anything, the tantrums are getting worse. But I know the Bible says to spank my children, and I don’t know what else to do!
The rod verses are not referring to a literal instrument *intended for hitting or spanking children*. They are referring to a literal Shebet–one of three Hebrew words translated as “rod” in the English and most commonly referencing a symbol of authority–either a walking stick carried by a head of the family, a shepherd’s staff, or a king’s sceptre–but also used to refer to the 12 tribes–or offshoots– and even to Jesus himself! My first counsel to you would be to stop spanking your baby. You are provoking him to anger and that is specifically counseled against by Paul!
Now, as for how to deal with his frustration. First, please stop calling what he’s doing “temper tantrums”. Those words carry strong connotation that will frustrate you more as you try to deal with this. True temper tantrums are found in older children who have been taught that this behavior is how you get what you want–they are manipulative and intended. In a 20 month old BABY what you are experiencing is frustration. He is overwhelmed with frustration and it is exploding out of him. It’s reasonable to expect when you are designed by God to explore and someone is thwarting that in you.
So, it’s totally age appropriate. At the same time, it’s not appropriate to do in general and must be *taught* against. So, on to your question of how to respond.
The rule for GBD is “kind and firm” and both elements are very important. If you have determined that something is unsafe or unacceptable for him to have then, as the parent and authority, you have every right and obligation to set that boundary. You need to state it clearly. “Not for ___. Owie–this will hurt.” Or however it’s appropriate to explain. Use simple terms and try to pick a few consistent words. We use the hand waving back and forth to indicate “no” ala baby signs and my 10 month old was able to copy it and move away from something.