Toddlers and Tantrums – And What To Do About It
When I was a little girl, my parents’ motto was “say yes whenever possible.” My brothers and I were the kids that could show up at school with a Superman Cape and a tutu if we wanted. We were allowed to play in the mud, play dress-up in our parents’ closet, and scream at the top of our lungs….BUT it was always within the boundaries set by Mom and Dad. They gave us the world, a little at a time. We knew our limits. Yes, we can play in the mud, and not in our brand new fancy shoes. Yes, we can play dress-up in our parents’ closet, and raiding Mommy’s makeup stash and covering the walls is a major no-no. And as for screaming and temper tantrums…this was my favorite.
Sometimes kids throw tantrums—it’s their only way to get out their emotions. Sometimes, however, they need to keep their emotions in check a bit, as we all do. Throwing a screaming tantrum in a grocery store—not allowed. All of us knew where every bathroom was in every store. It only took a few times before we realized the rules—tantrums in public places did not give us control—it didn’t make Mommy leave, it didn’t allow us to get what we wanted, it just resulted in punishment, which for us, meant a spanking in the bathroom (which I know today would be a whole heap of trouble). Regardless of how you choose to discipline your children (I use a variety of methods and each kid is addressed differently since they all have their own beautiful personality styles), there are places where it is unacceptable to pitch a hairy fit. The key, though, is to allow a place where they CAN.
I used to get so angry when I was little—my middle brother and I were very close, and he would pick on me and I’d get furious. I was given a choice—if I needed to vent, I could go in my room, close the door, and do whatever to get my anger out that wasn’t destructive (cry, scream, beat a pillow), but I could not do it in the living room, at a store, or by hitting my brother. I distinctly remember storming down the hall, shutting my door (not slamming it, as this was a no because of squished fingers), and screaming my lungs out. I’d cry in my pillow, scream out loud, sit around, and come back out a new person.
Let me put a disclaimer here. Every emotion is allowed in our household. We don’t look down on crying, being angry, or any other “negative” emotion. I completely disagree with ever making your child feel bad for having strong emotions, telling them to “get over it” or making them feel shame for doing it in a public place. This is not about that.
This is about helping our children to navigate a world that
doesn’t revolve around them.
In our household, we respect all things – so letting out all your emotions is a-ok. And when you choose to do it in a way that is not respectful of others (like screaming bloody murder at the store where everyone else has to cringe and listen to it), it is not being respectful of others in the area.
This brings us to attitude. My Dad would always tell me that “you are in charge of your attitude.” I could choose whether I was happy or sad, excited or mad. And when we were in a bad mood and taking it out on others, we got an “attitude adjustment,” which consisted of us sitting and listening to a motivational tape, such as Zig Ziglar or Brian Tracy. Sometimes we listened to inspirational sermons on different values that we were struggling with (like being kind). We learned valuable lessons during those times—it forced us to sit and think, and was much more effective than a basic time out, as we were learning principles to carry out in our lives, and new ways of handling situations. It’s funny how I’ll catch myself quoting something to my friends now that I learned during one of my “attitude adjustments.”
Now I understand that we are allowed to have every range of emotions-it’s okay to be angry or sad. It’s okay to let it out in a healthy way. Yet when it darkens my whole day and affects the mood of people around me—that is my fault. I have the power to feel…and then I have the power to let it go and move on. I can decide how my day will be. I can vent my frustrations and then be free to enjoy the rest of the day with my family. And now, when my daughter decides to scream her head off, I can be annoyed, take a deep breath, and know that I can choose to be happy anyway! And surprisingly enough, that also affects others, and my daughter usually ends up laughing with me and forgot what she was mad about in the first place!
My youngest is the queen of this – short bursts of intense temper and frustration. She has found a lot of inspiration from the wonderful Daniel Tiger about how to chill out and bring her emotions back to a place of peace. My middle daughter Ellie discusses this on her site and shares one of the brilliant songs: When You Feel So Mad. I look at angry Juliet in all her emotional sweetness, and I see a beautiful soul who is going to touch so many hearts. I let her have her anger – I let her feel and rage and cry. And then I pick her back up and bring her back to center. Because there is a big ole’ world out there and I need to help her navigate what is going on inside her soul and also what is going on outside in the world. As Zig Ziglar would say, sometimes we need a “check-up from the neck-up.”
So I love on my girls, I meet them where they are in whatever emotion they are in. And then we decide together how they can handle it in an effective way. Sometimes that means we need a firm pep talk on what “no, we are not getting fifteen candy bars” means, and sometimes it means we get extra hugs, some alone time, or a natural consequence for their actions.
How do you handle those perceived “negative” behaviors in your children? Do they have a song or routine they do to calm themselves down? What stories do you have about emotional outbursts in public?