We’ve all been there: it’s not easy dealing with a wailing kid of any age when we are so overwhelmed and so frustrated that we feel ready to start wailing ourselves. Whining kids also trigger the same bits of the brain that the sound of crying babies does – we are immediately desperate to make it stop. We begin operating from hindbrain fight-or-flight principles instead of thinking clearly.
A wailing kid isn’t necessarily “being naughty”. They’re often simply sitting with big feelings that they are overwhelmed by. Adults can easily be overwhelmed by similar feelings, like jealousy or frustration: I also feel upset when my heart’s desires are thwarted, or angry when someone takes my things, or hurt when I feel like people are being unkind to me: it’s just that I’ve got the forebrain bits in place to deal with it differently. What we need to do as parents is fulfil that forebrain function for our children: we need to help them process. And that can be very hard. Joining the kid in a screaming fight because we are ourselves overwhelmed is only likely to escalate the situation. We need to keep adult as much as possible, although we don’t always get that right – we are, after all, human! And sometimes Mommy needs a time out.
It’s also important to forestall tantrums where necessary. tired and hungry kids are already halfway to a meltdown. Sometimes it’s about attention: having fifteen to twenty minutes of one on one time every day is a quick and easy way to ensure that your child feels like they have access to good times with you, and may head off much of the need for attention seeking. Looking after yourself is also important for your kids as it means you will be better able to be present and relaxed with them.
But regardless of our best intentions, the occasional meltdown in unavoidable. Here are some ways to turn a tantrum around:
©Psych in a Box