Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Saturday 31 July |
Saint of the Day: St. Ignatius Loyola
home iconLifestyle
line break icon

5 Ways to stay calm when your kid is having a tantrum

TANTRUM

Shutterstock

Anna O'Neil - published on 12/12/18

These Al-Anon slogans (and one prayer) are a mother's best friend.

I was really hoping I’d never be become the kind of parent who is qualified to give people advice about dealing with tantruming kids, but here we are. They say you become good at anything with enough practice. Sigh.

There are no magical solutions, but these strategies definitely help. They don’t stop a tantrum, mind you — I still have no idea what to do for those — but I’ve found some things that help me handle tantrums more peacefully. It turns out, that’s more than half the battle.

I keep these slogans in mind, and although I didn’t intend it this way, they basically work really well for the same reason the Al-Anon slogans work so well — when you’re about to say or do something you’ll regret, a simple phrase can keep you on track, precisely because it’s simple enough to remember in the heat of the moment.

These are the ones that work for me:

“He’s not giving me a hard time, he’s having a hard time.”

This one’s my favorite, because when I can change the focus from how the tantrum affects me (and nothing is more inconvenient than a well-timed tantrum) to how he must be feeling in the grips of it, the frustration turns into empathy. And I’m a much better person when I’m feeling connected instead of angry.

“I’m so grateful for this little boy.”

Gratitude is remarkably disarming. Even when my son is acting distinctly unloveable, my mother’s heart still knows that his presence in my life is one of the best gifts God ever gave me. I may not be grateful for the behavior, but I’m always grateful for him. That quick sentence helps me remember to choose to love him when I’d rather not.

“It’s not about me, it’s about him.”

This one’s especially for when my son’s chosen a very public place to have a tantrum, and everyone around me is — or so I assume — judging the heck out of my parenting skills. My embarrassment makes it harder to stay calm, but he needs me to be calm. Instead of seeing his problems as a reflection of my choices, I can concentrate on his needs first.

The emotion must be so big for it to be coming out like this.

This one helps me not to minimize my son’s feelings. Experts call temper tantrums “externalizing behavior,” because the child is expressing a painful internal feeling in an outward way. Objectively, the agony of leaving Target with no new toys isn’t something that the whole parking lot needs to hear about. But emotions are subjective, and even when his emotional response is way overblown, it’s still what he’s feeling. A tantruming child may be overreacting to the situation, but he’s not usually overreacting to the emotion — it’s just that painful for him. Throwing a tantrum isn’t any fun. When I remember that, it helps me approach him with compassion, even as I try to teach him that the how he reacted to the emotion was not okay.

More than any of these, there’s prayer:

Specifically, the Beatitudes. Can you even imagine a better reminder for a parent who’s a hair’s breadth away from flipping out?

Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

It’s hard to be a parent. It’s hard to be a kid, too. The Beatitudes help me remember that winning a power struggle with my child isn’t always as much of a win as I think it is.




Read more:
How to defuse a child’s tantrum with one question

Tags:
Parenting
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
HIDILYN DIAZ
Cerith Gardiner
Gold-winning Filipina Olympian shares her Miraculous Medal for th...
2
SIMONE BILES
Cerith Gardiner
Simone Biles leaves the Olympics with an important lesson for her...
3
Zelda Caldwell
World-record winning gymnast Simone Biles leans on her Catholic f...
4
ORGAN
J-P Mauro
Reconstructing a 12th-century pipe organ discovered in the Holy L...
5
PRINCESS DIANA AND MOTHER TERESA
Mathilde De Robien
Did you know Princess Di was buried with a rosary?
6
Zelda Caldwell
German women’s gymnastics teams modest dress protests sport’s ...
7
Lauren Daigle
J-P Mauro
After 3 years Lauren Daigle ousts herself from #1 Billboard spot
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.