Two Tips for Taming Tantrums
Mornings are hard in my house. Even when I am up early, fully caffeinated and ready to go there is a rush to getting out the door that makes my heart race and temper flare. One particular morning my son was beyond excited to tell me about the prizes he could win through a school fundraiser. He spent a full five minutes debating, as I listened (and packed lunches and made breakfast) which prize he would pick when he met his goal. Within this speech I said, no less than 6 times, “Awesome buddy, now go get your backpack and get in the car.” Somehow, he didn’t pick up on my interest in his excitement and continued to tell me about his soon to be treasured. Finally, I became overwhelmed and snapped back saying “that’s great, now drop it and get in the car.”
Then he immediately got in the car as asked. Ha. Just kidding, he started crying and kicking the door, more commonly known as “throwing a tantrum.”
It wasn’t until after seeing the hurt in my son’s eyes that I realized the unspoken message I sent him was “what you are talking about isn’t important.” It was then that I recognized that if I had taken just 30 seconds to look him in the eyes and share his joy, I could have avoided a meltdown. Instead, he had to fight for my attention to gain validation that what he says matters to me.
So, what exactly could have stopped this meltdown from happening? Self-awareness and empathy.
Taking the time to get to know ourselves and our own triggers can help us understand when we might need to take a break before we respond to our kids from a place of stress. For me, I get very snappy when I try to multitask because I get overwhelmed. Our own self-awareness is also the key to our ability to empathize with someone else. In a culture of “toughen up,” it can be hard to connect with our own feelings of not being valued. If we aren’t able to recognize feelings of hurt in ourselves it is going to be much harder to recognize and validate that feeling for our kids. The great news is these micro-breaks in our relationships actually make our relationship with our children stronger when we use self-awareness and empathy to mend hurt feelings. Plus, when our kids see us apologize they also learn that making mistakes is human.
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