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My son was crying loudly on the floor. Apparently, the milk in his bowl wasn’t the milk he expected (?!) so a tantrum started out of the blue. He was kicking the TV table with his legs and hitting the carpet with his fists. I’m sure that my neighbors next door could perfectly hear all that noise.
I was standing next to him, feeling completely overwhelmed. It wasn’t the first tantrum that he had that day. Actually, it was probably the third. In those moments, all I wanted to do was to run and hide in the bathroom. The thought of dealing with another difficult moment seem too hard to manage.
But as I looked at him I realized how powerless he was feeling. How hard it was for him to handle all those intense feelings. How much he needed me in that moment.
So I laid on the floor, close to him. And I just whispered: “I am here for you”. He continued to hit the floor. For time to time, he looked at me, to check if was still there. After some time (it seemed forever to me!), he stopped crying. He came closer and put his hand on my cheek.
I asked him if he wanted a hug.
He nodded. I took him in my arms and gave him a big hug. He looked in my eyes and tears started rolling on his cheeks. “I am so sad that I’m not a baby anymore”, he told me.photo credit: Jurij Krupiak / shutterstock.com
And for the first time after several chaotic days, I understood what was happening! The true reason behind all the tears and screams. The struggle that he had been dealing with but couldn’t talk about.
All this happened a little time after he moved to a new class at the daycare. He was no longer a baby so he was moved to a class with older kids. And this affected him more than I imagined.
That evening we talked a lot about this, we played, and I tried to drive away his fears. After he fell asleep, I thought about what happened. And I was so glad that he opened up to me about his feelings.
I realized that if I wouldn’t have treated his tantrum in a gentle way, he wouldn’t have told me what was really wrong.
Dealing with tantrums in a gentle way is a precious gift that we can give to our kids when they are young. And this will lay the foundation for a relationship based on trust and respect.
This is why I decided to write about the magic power of handling tantrums with love and understanding. At the end of the article, you will also be able to download a cheat sheet with helpful tips about dealing with a tantrum in a gentle way.photo credit: unguryanu / shutterstock.com
But before getting to those tips, I want to share with you the benefits that handling tantrums in a gentle way can bring to us and our kids. I’m sure that after reading them you will totally understand why I would recommend this method to any mom!
1. The child feels our support and is able to open up to us.
When we are gentle and supportive, the kids have the chance to reconnect with us and to share their fears and concerns. Even those tantrums that seem to have started from the silliest reasons may have a deeper reason that we need to know.
When the kids know that they can trust us, they will be more willing to let us discover all their feelings. This may not seem so important when we think about an 18-month old baby but trust is something that we build over time. And we will certainly appreciate a relationship based on trust when our kids are older.
2. The child understands that feelings are not bad and learns to make better choices.
The basic principle of handling tantrums in a gentle way is that all feelings are acceptable but not all behaviors are. Kids need to know that we understand their feelings and we accept them. And they also need to learn how to make better choices when they feel overwhelmed by those strong feelings.
I wrote more details about how we can teach kids about this here: How to help young kids deal with strong emotions in a gentle way.photo credit: unguryanu / shutterstock.com
3. The child learns how to manage strong emotions.
When parents use punishments after a tantrum the child understands that those feelings are not acceptable and they need to be hidden. On the long run, this can lead to adults who suppress their emotions and are more likely to feel depressed.
On the other hand, when parents treat tantrums in a gentle way, they can teach the children how to make peace with their own emotions and manage them in a healthy way. This is an essential skill that will help kids to be emotionally balanced and to grow into happy and confident adults.
4. The child will have fewer tantrums.
This is a benefit that I’m sure every parent will appreciate. And it has a very logical explanation.
When kids throw a lot of tantrums, this usually means that they have an unmet need. The sooner the parent can find out the real reason behind the behavior, the sooner they will be able to address it and help the child deal with it.
Also, when we deal with tantrums in a gentle way, we teach the kids how to self-regulate and this helps them manage their emotions better. And have fewer tantrums!photo credit: unguryanu / shutterstock.com
If you want to find out more about dealing with tantrums in a gentle way and get tips from parenting experts, here are some resources that were very helpful for me:
No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind – many helpful tips on how to calmly and lovingly connect with a child while still setting clear and consistent limits
No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame – a wonderful book about how to deal with the difficult toddlerhood years
Aha! Parenting – one of my favorite parenting sites where Dr. Laura Markham gives great tips for parents (you can find here a lot of articles about tantrums and different way to approach them depending on the age of the child).
As promised, at the end I want to share with you the tips that helped me a lot when Bogdan went through that difficult period when tantrums started. In time, things got easier and I am grateful that we were able to use those difficult moments to build a strong relationship.
This doesn’t mean that now we never have any tantrums. They still happen but they are rare and easier to handle.
If you want to handle your child’s tantrums in a gentle way, I hope that this cheat sheet will help you! I can guarantee you that dealing with tantrums in an understanding way is totally worth the effort!
Download the printable cheat sheet: How to deal with tantrums in a gentle way
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photo credit preview photo: Yulia YasPe / shutterstock.com