The number one question that gets asked at my parenting seminars is, “How to stay connected during a tantrum?”
Meanwhile, no parent wakes up in the morning and says, “I’m going to make my child miserable as we get ready to leave the house.” All too often youngsters react as if your only goal is to be the misery-maker in your home. Unfortunately, that’s exactly how little Amanda responded to her mom when she said (after several prompts and kind warnings) it was “time to go.” What did little Amanda do? She threw her shoes on the floor and yelled, “No! I don’t want to leave!”
Here is how to stay connected during a tantrum?
When your little-one melts down, it can be tempting to feel as though you are the misery-maker in your own home. It can be even more tempting to focus on the unruly behavior that usually follows a tantrum and then use your power to force your little one to get ready– at the expense of staying connected to her. In the heat-of-the-moment the key is to connect first, and then redirect the obnoxious behavior.
Step One: Create Safety
In the heat-of-the-moment, a child’s under-developed brain can get hijacked with emotion quickly. As such, children often need you to help them make the transition from one task to another. During this difficult transition, staying calm and expressing empathy tells a child that you understand what she’s going through. Even more, it helps soothe her reactive brain. Put another way, a reactive child needs to know that you can understand her experience; that you understand it from her unique perspective. These key signals tells her brain that “it’s safe.” As soon as it feels safe the brain starts to calm down again. What typically follows is a child who starts to relax. Once a child feels safe, loved, and understood you can move on to the next step.
Step Two: Redirect by talking logically
It sounds something like:
“I understand that you are tired and want to stay home and play in your room; but it is time to go sweetie (said in a kind and gentle voice), so be mommy’s helper and get your shoes on please.”
On the other hand, if you skip step one, if you forget to use empathy, it might sound like:
“Get your shoes on right now young lady!”
Which message would you like to hear if you are having a difficult time transitioning from play time to leaving the house? Which statement will soothe the survival centers in your brain? Which statement will help you relax? Empathy can be a powerful tool to show children that you understand where they are coming from, especially when they emotionally stuck and then refuse to leave the house. It can also soothe a brain that is in the fight-or-flight reflex, help them relax and best of all… become more flexible again.
A Point To Ponder
Whether a child is two or twenty-two, kind words can turn away anger and wrath. They soften the blow of unwanted change. It’s the best way I know how to stay connected during a tantrum.
In my next article, I’m going to discuss a controversial topic: Punishment vs. discipline.
Author: Steve Cuffari For many, Steve Cuffari is the mentor that parents call on to make their parenting style warmer, easier and more affective. He is the founder of inTouch Parenting, a company devoted to helping today's parents calm the chaos, raise emotionally intelligent kids, and nurture families that thrive. read more about Steve Cuffari here...