Embrace the Tantrum: Listen to What Your Child Is Really Trying To Say

“You get what you get and you don’t get upset.”

I am sure we have all heard that very mantra more than a few times throughout our lives. Perhaps it was said to you; or maybe now as a parent, you are the one saying it.

I don’t know about you, but when someone tells me not to get upset, it is like an atomic bomb going off inside me that instantly has me more upset than I was before. Now it’s as if my feelings are invalid, or worse, irrelevant.

I am in charge of my feelings. I dictate how I feel.  That goes the same for my child.

My 3 year old crying over not getting dessert because she didn’t eat her broccoli at dinner? She gets to be upset. Sure, I can reason with her and explain it is a natural consequence. She chose not to eat her vegetable, so that means no dessert. I can walk her through the process of how we got to this conclusion.

But I can’t tell her she can’t be upset.  

Embrace the Tantrum: Listen to What Your Child Is Really Trying To Say

“You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit”

Odds are if you are a parent, you’ve witnessed a fit or two (or more, but who’s counting?) When it’s your child throwing that fit, it can be frustrating. But remember, this is the key; they are using their fit to convey how they feel. And chances are, if your child has resorted to throwing a fit, they are frustrated too.

Throwing a fit is not always an act of defiance. Sometimes a child feels unheard, so they are trying to make their message loud and clear. Children often feel helpless and confused, but they don’t know how to appropriately show that. 

Have you ever sped off in road rage, slammed a door, or even raised your voice during a conversation or situation in which you felt fed up or frustrated? You knew those behaviors were wrong. Yet you got caught up in the moment and did it anyway. You’re human, and so is your child.

Embracing the tantrum.

Yes, it sounds crazy. Embrace the tantrum? But I do. I have learned so much about my daughter through her complete meltdowns. I actually feel lucky my daughter is not only comfortable enough, but feels it’s imperative that I understand her feelings to the point she throws a fit to show that. I’m not just talking about how loud she can yell, or how hard she can throw her things. I am talking about my daughters wants and needs.

Through these tantrums, we have learned to form a safe zone to talk about those very emotions she is feeling. We talk about how she is allowed to feel her emotions, but not act negatively upon them. I teach, you can be upset, but you don’t throw things. It is okay to be sad, but we don’t hit. You can be happy, but we don’t screech. It is okay to be angry, but we don’t kick. The bottom line is, she feels validated.

Learning to self soothe.

You may have found healthier ways to handle your own frustrations–walking away, reading a book, using a stress ball, or whatever helps release your tension and re-center your focus. Those are the types of things we need to teach our children; we need to teach how to calm themselves back down.

It might take some trial and error to see what works for your child. A few suggestions are as follows: count to 10, take deep breaths, sing Baby Shark, hold their favorite animal, do something that interests them. Try things with your child, and once you find something that works, encourage them to start doing it on their own. Unfortunately, as parents, we won’t be there for every moment that might escalate into a fit. So it is crucial to help your child learn to self soothe on their own for times like those.

Tantrums don’t last forever

Recognize your child’s feelings, and help teach them how to recognize them too. “When you feel upset, tell mommy why so we can talk about it”. Talk about those feelings. NORMALIZE it. Those tantrums will lessen because you are listening to your child. 

The next time your child throws a fit, remember, they want you to know how they feel. At that very moment a fit is the only way they are sure you will understand exactly what emotions they are experiencing.

So embrace that tantrum.

And show your child it’s okay to feel.

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