Toddler tantrums can be hard to tackle!
But tantrums aren’t just for toddlers.
We all have experiences of being upset, of being dysregulated and not handling things the way we’d like to handle them.
And when we recognize that our children (at all ages) have reasons for those upsets (even if we don’t really get it), it gives us the opportunity to connect and actually help make it better this time, and the next time, too. Learning the skills to regulate and create more connection in the moment helps everyone to feel better, no matter how old we are and no matter what we call it.
From a friend:
“He wouldn’t get into the car. No matter how much I begged, pleaded, or threatened. He’s 3 and I can’t make him get into the carseat anymore. Physically I’m just not strong enough. But he needs to be in the carseat to be safe. I’m not driving anywhere without him safely buckled in.
The other day, instead of him climbing up into his carseat to get his brother to school on time, he ran into the garage, laughing.
It wasn’t funny. I completely lost it. I started yelling at him and I grabbed him roughly to let him know I meant it. He looked terrified. He got into his carseat, but this isn’t the way I want to be with him. I want to be gentle with him, but I have no idea how to get out of this loop with him.”
Almost all of us here have been in similar situations with our kids, especially around carseats. We’re going to be tackling topics like this in our upcoming LIVE Tantrums and Emotional Upsets class. The emotional upsets we’re talking about aren’t just from your kids. But how can we make it through situations where we’re triggered or overwhelmed and stay connected to our kids. And frankly, get them in the carseat without all the drama.
Tantrums in the family:
A friend of ours is pregnant with her first child. She has a sister with two daughters ages 8 and 10. The daughters have commonly been greatly upset, expressing big emotions, yelling, slamming doors, and saying things like ‘I hate you’ to their parents. Our friend, not having children of her own yet, never knew exactly how to respond. When she tried to intervene or talk about it, she was told ‘just let her go into her room’ referring to the child, or ‘I don’t know what her problem is’. Now that she is pregnant, she wants to know if there is a way to respond differently. She sees there is a problem, but is unsure how to approach the situation.
Tantrums happening to a stranger’s child:
Recently one of our friends went to a local children’s museum. She brought her baby to see new visual stimuli and talk about the shapes, colors, and things they were exploring. Well, something she had not expected to talk with her baby about was a tantrum that a stranger’s child was having.
While at the museum, she saw a little boy on the ground crying so hard he was wheezing. He was pushing his feet into the ground which propelled him in a motion that ‘scooted’ him across the floor. He would literally travel this way while screaming and crying for the length of the building. This went on for more than 20 minutes.
Our friend at the time wasn’t sure what to do or how she felt. She felt sad, confused, wanting to help the child or parent in some way. She saw the mother looking away trying to ‘ignore’ the behavior and standing with her arms crossed while the boy cried. Our friend explained to her baby what was going on and aimed at connecting in case it caused any emotions to arise. What should our friend have done? What could the crying child’s mother done differently?
“Our son, Teghan, is 10. He’s always been a rather high-need child and has had a lot of big feelings about everything. I’ve been doing my best to create space for his feelings, knowing this is who he is, and that helping him learn to regulate is critical to him learning to regulate his behaviors.
It’s taken me months to really be able to do this with him and not fly into a rage myself. Rebecca’s work has really helped me with this. Things have gotten so much better with me. I can see that his upsets are lasting less time and he’s becoming less impulsive with his behaviors. Win!
But my problem is that my husband is not on board. He gets super upset with Teghan when he’s upset. I see that it isn’t working, but I have no idea how to help everyone here. I honestly just want to cry or maybe run away, but that won’t solve the problem or help either of them.”
Consciously Parenting response: It sounds like you’ve made some great strides with your son! Congratulations! That’s really big! At the same time, it is really hard if you have a partner who isn’t on board with what you’re doing. Usually when one parent isn’t on board and the other parent gets it, it creates extra tension and less space for flexibility and change. It usually requires both education for the other partner (usually by someone other than you) and validation of his own experience and needs. It sounds like your husband is on red himself when this is happening. Have you talked to him about what it’s like for him when your son is upset? Have you talked about what it’s like for your husband when you’re creating space for your son’s feelings? Creating an understanding of your husband’s experience can go a long way to creating the space for change for the whole family. Talking about the Brain Stoplight is a great place to start and identifying what everyone in the family looks like on the different stoplight brain states. You can watch that video here.
We’re going to be starting a discussion-based class. If this conversation is interesting to you, you might also be interested in joining us for our live virtual class! Learn more here.