Every day, I see hundreds of questions asking, “What should I do when my child throws a tantrum?”
We see it as BAD. We think we’ll be JUDGED (oh hi, everyone I hadn’t noticed until now at Target!). We think it needs to STOP. Men ESPECIALLY think it needs to stop. Five minutes ago!
The problem is, alllllllllllllllllllll of that is our own conditioning. That is our BS belief systems telling us it’s bad and then our own discomfort/triggers telling us it has to stop before we snap.
So what do you do when your child has a tantrum?
First, you DETACH.
Look, no one is judging you at Target. Maybe some people are making sure you’re not like stealing someone’s baby but the heightened awareness you feel is the collective pain of a connected universe being felt. Your child is feeling pain, so everyone around it is feeling pain. Detach as if it wasn’t even your child, just one you stumbled over on the way to the Starbucks counter.
Then, you CONNECT.
If your child will let you, or they are unsafe if you don’t, hold them. Hug them, soothe them. Ground yourself, move into open hearted (loving) energy, stay on the breath.
Most importantly, you VALIDATE.
Whatever they are pissed about, no matter how trivial you think it may be, identify it and label the feeling, explain what the problem is, then ask for help coming up with a solution:
“You want that Shopkins piece of crap I mean little shopping bag and you are feeling angry and sad because I said we couldn’t buy it. I understand how much you want it and I will write it on your shopping list. The problem is, we don’t have money to spend on it today. Can you help me write it down for another time when we do?”
Now, this is important to do at any age, because even non-verbal babies are taking in our language. However, with the littlest of the littles, you can then gently distract. Not ignore, but gently and hopefully playfully guide them into something new.
Because otherwise you will spend the rest of your life in Target and have bought every ball known to mankind.
Remember, your kids are learning about life through you, and emotions may be one of the most important things you teach them about. They need you to gently coach them through them. The actual feeling will pass in 30-90 seconds, but it’s both important that they feel it and have healthy tools to cope with discomfort.
If you don’t allow yourself to feel your feelings, they literally get stored in your body. Trying to force a child to stop crying or straighten up is actually harmful to their body – now or down the road.
The sexiest men I know get down to the level of the child and seek to connect and comfort.
If you are somewhere where QUIET is expected – like a fancy restaurant or quiet meeting, then remove the child and continue the coaching outside.
One of the best moments for me was when I finally “got it” when it came to my daughter’s fear over having her hair washed. One night in the tub, before the hair washing even started, I just brought it up.
“You don’t like having your hair washed. It’s scary for you to put your ears in the water. You don’t like to get water in your ears.”
“The problem is, we have to wash your hair or it will get dirty and germs will live there. What could we do so we can still keep your hair clean? Do you have any ideas?”
She thought about it for less than a minute and said, “Maybe I could plug my ears!”
“That’s a great idea! Let me know when you’re ready, and you can plug your ears while I wash your hair.”
Bear in mind, we had tried everything prior to this. Hats, earplugs, the shower head, etc.
It wasn’t until she came up with the solution that we found one that worked. Empower your children to find solutions and support their deep emotions.
This is the only way we’ll have adults that know healthy ways to feel their pain and cope with it and not do atrocious acts like school shootings or road rage killings. Seriously, this is important stuff. Don’t be afraid of tantrums. Every single one is an opportunity for you to connect and coach.