christ follower · family life · mom life · Uncategorized

how to deal with a tantrum

IMG_4247One day I was in the grocery store as a newly married young woman kid. Sidebar, I married super early at 18. Looking back now I realize I was a baby but I wouldn’t change a thing. It was the best decision (other than accepting Jesus) that I have ever made. He was the one for me and I just knew it. He’s still the only one for me and always will be. Tomorrow will be our 20th dating anniversary. Yep, we celebrate that.

Back to the story… I was in the grocery store and I heard loud screams and hollers coming from some kid in the next aisle. I kept hearing the mom say, “Shhh! If you will please be quiet and behave I will give you a cookie when we get home.”

I said to myself, “When I have children, they will never be allowed to act like that. She needs to get her kid under control.” I thought that she obviously needed to teach her child a thing or two about manners. Folks, let me tell you something. I have been humbled since then. Straight up humbled. If I knew then what I know now I would have walked up to that sweet mom and hugged her. She probably needed it and I’m sure she was embarrassed. Sometimes I think of her and I am sorry I was so judgmental. I had no clue about motherhood then. Shoot, I’m winging it now! I try to learn all I can and especially  learn from other moms who have been there, done that .

I’ll never forget the first time my oldest had a meltdown in Wal-Mart. He was barely two and wanted a piece of candy while we were in line to check out. Thank you Wal-Mart for putting every piece of candy known to mankind right up in the check-out lane, said no parent ever. When I told him no because we were about to have dinner, things went south pretty quickly.

I’m about to tell you something shocking. Ready? Here goes. In spite of everything Nate and I had taught him about manners and behaving, he threw a tantrum anyway. Right there in the check-out lane surrounded by everybody and their mama. Crying, screaming, kicking, and lying on the floor. The more he cried, the more looks I got and the more red-faced I became. I was “that” mom whose kid was throwing a fit in public. The looks I got that day were the same looks I had given as a newlywed years before hand.

I think we are quick to assume that if someone’s kid is acting up that it must be a lack of training and teaching on the parent’s part. That may be true in some extreme cases but most of us are trying really hard to teach our children to be well-behaved and respectful. No matter how much you have tried to instill into your child, you may be that mom with the child melting down either at home or in public. Sometimes I still have the temptation to be prideful and think that my children know better than that. It’s then that I am reminded to remain humble.

Just look at these sweet angels. How could they ever be naughty right?

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I am by no means a parenting expert. I am constantly learning. As a matter of fact, I should have named this post How I TRY to deal with tantrums. I don’t always deal well but here are some things that help me deal.

  1. Get to the heart of the matter. Are they hungry? Do they need a nap? Ask them what is wrong and they will probably tell you. At a very young age these two situations are usually the culprit. A snack or a nap is a pretty good solution here. Hungry and tired isn’t a good combo. If I’m out and about I will carry a snack in my purse or bag in case hunger strikes and a meltdown occurs because of it. Heck, I get hangry too. So whip out those fruit snacks and carry on Mama!
  2. Respond the right way.  When you child is upset, it’s really easy to get upset right along with them. I have been as guilty as anyone to have a little meltdown right along with my children. Sometimes I will snap back or yell. I hate when I give into that temptation and respond in a harsh tone. It’s important for me to be understanding toward my child even in the most aggravating circumstances. The bible says that a gentle answer turns away wrath. I will even lower my voice to drive this home. When I remain calm I can be in control of the situation and can then encourage them to respond positively as well. This can really de-escalate the situation.
  3. Look right into their eyes. With little ones, I have to get right down on their level. I may kneel of sit so I can look right into their eyes. I need to know that they hear me and understand what I’m saying. In turn, they know that mommy can hear and see them too. I want them to know that I care about what upsets them. For that to happen, I need to reach their hearts. When they see that mommy cares about what’s really upsetting them, it changes their attitude.
  4. Time spent alone. If a tantrum occurs at home something that works well for us is the tried and true go to your room tactic. Time alone in their room or in their time out chair gives them a good opportunity to calm down and think. I tell my kids, after you are calm you can come downstairs and we can talk about this. It’s then that I can talk to them, reinforce positive behavior and show them how to respond when they need or want something instead of throwing a fit.
  5. This one is an oldie but a goodie. One simple thing that is often overlooked is teaching kids the difference between a loud voice and a soft voice. Inside voice and outside voice. This is important to teach early on. When my oldest was two or so, it dawned on me to teach him when it was okay to have a loud voice and when he needed to use a quiet voice. This tactic worked well on several occasions when he was toddler age. When I seen that he was nearing a tantrum I would remind him to use his soft voice. It didn’t always work but it did more often than not.

Sometimes nothing works and a consequence needs to be handed out. Let me say that I am a firm believer in discipline. I do not encourage or tolerate bad behavior. However, children are like adults and will have off days. I do not always respond correctly to every circumstance so why would I expect perfection from my child? I try to understand the reason for a bad mood before I just start handing out a consequence in haste. I often try to show grace and give my child at least the opportunity to do what’s right first. The more I reinforce positive behavior the less we deal with tantrums. I don’t say this boastfully but we don’t often deal with tantrums anymore. They do happen but are occurring less frequently.

I would also say to praise your child ten times more than you correct them. This is so important. Be as positive as possible and give words of affirmation when you see them doing good or even when you see them struggling.

More than anything, I pray for grace upon grace for all the moms and dads out there trying hard to raise kind and respectful children. The good days always outweigh the hard days. Remember that you are dealing with your children’s hearts and their hearts are tender. Mold and shape them in the ways of the Lord and try to be as patient with them as your Heavenly Father is with you.

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