When your child starts throwing a fit, your initial reaction is probably not gratitude, as for most parents; tantrums tend to bring out confusion, anger, or at least frustration.
But what if we saw our children’s tantrums for what they really are? What if we recognized that our child’s yelling, screaming breakdown, is actually a great gift or message to us parents?
The next time your child throws a fit, I invite you to look at the situation differently. Thank your child for one or all of these three things (either in your mind or out loud) and see how quickly the dynamic shifts between you.
1) Thank you for speaking up when something’s not right
As they grow up, children receive hundreds of thousands of messages telling them how they must think, act, or be a certain way in order to be accepted or loved.
During my 20 years of work in the self-help field, I have seen an awful lot of adults who were shut down as children.
When children are shut down often enough, they lose track of their inner voice. Your child’s voice is a great gift. Even if you don’t understand or agree with what your child is upset over, acknowledge that you hear them. Try saying this:
“I hear you. Tell me all about why you’re so upset. What you say matters.”
You may find that the less you try to shut down your child’s resistance, the less resistant they become. When children know they are free to express their voice, they do so with more confidence and less fight.
2) Thank you for living true to your nature
Every child comes to this Earth with a unique energetic configuration. Your child’s natural energy informs their movement, their motivations and their personality. When they live true to that nature, they are naturally happier and cooperative.
But what if the tantrum is about not being able to watch another TV show, or get the treat that they wanted at the store, or stay up a few minutes later? Should I just let them “live true to themselves” and do whatever they want? No. But you can acknowledge your child’s wants with appreciation for who they are. Try this:
“I hear that sounds frustrating to you. The answer is still no, but you can tell me more about why that makes you sad.”
A child who is throwing a fit is a child fighting to be understood, whatever their reason.
3) Thank you for forgiving and letting me try again
Most often, the tantrum isn’t about the piece of candy or the bedtime. Tantrums are actually secret messages meant to alert parents to an imbalance in the relationship.
They may say it’s about candy, but children attach stories to their frustration in attempts to articulate feelings they do not know how to explain.
Look a little deeper and you may see that this tantrum came from a pattern of ignoring your child, or telling them “no” too often, or not paying as much attention to their feelings as you could have.
Whatever you have or haven’t done that you regret, own it and take care of it. Children are remarkably resilient and forgiving. Try saying the following:
“I’m sorry I haven’t given you the kind of attention you needed. I love you. What’s the best thing I could do to help you right now?”
Your child may surprise you with how quickly and calmly they share the answer to that question.
Your child’s tantrum is a secret message
I’ve never seen a parent in a grocery store lean over to their child and say, “Thank you for throwing this screaming temper tantrum on the floor here.”
You could be the first. See the next tantrum as an opportunity to understand your child rather than punish them. You may receive an important message that you didn’t notice before.
Your child tells you every day what they need from you in order to feel loved, secure and happy. They will tell you through a temper tantrum if they need to. As your child’s parent, you can receive unique and customized inspiration to resolve whatever the tantrum is bringing up for both of you.
Thank your child and listen right now. Your child will thank you one day.
Carol will be writing a follow-up piece to this article in the coming weeks where she’ll share the four types of tantrums and how you can decode them to create more cooperation and peace.