If your child throws temper tantrums what are the best ways for a parent to nurture a new behavior?
The way you approach a child who is having a tantrum depends on what you perceive is actually happening. If you are embarrassed by it or believe that the child is being manipulative or just plain ‘bratty’ you will want to coerce the child into stopping the tantrum immediately.
If you can shift your understanding and see the tantrum as a healthy and often necessary unloading of pent up energy, you will approach the child without annoyance and create a safe place where you actually help your little one learn how to process emotions.
Each time your child has a meltdown and you choose to keep yourself calm you are depositing trust into your parent-child relationship account. You will actually nurture the child’s ability to soothe him/herself by remembering this 3-fold approach:
1. Create a sense of physical and emotional safety. In a quiet voice remind the child that he is safe and you will stay with him. If he lets you hold him, do so. If not, stay close. Get on the floor with him. Open your arms. Let him know that you are on his side and your only desire is to be there for him. (As he grows older he will trust you with his truths and the voice in his head will be one of comfort.)
2. Listen without Judgment. The child is legitimately struggling with emotions. What would you need if you were struggling? Someone who judges you or someone who just listens to you? Without panic in your voice softly validate that he is having a hard time. Let him know that you understand that something feels really bad. You do not want to teach him to shut his feelings down. (As he grows older he will begin to name his feelings.)
3. Teach him that his Feelings are his Guidance System. By allowing him to move through the process of crying and breaking down you are helping him embrace all of his feelings. Once the sobbing and thrashing has calmed down, encourage him to take deep breathes with you. Conscious breathing is a wonderful way of connecting with our inner guidance. As you comfort him back in to balance you are showing him that there is good stuff after the overwhelming emotions subside. (As he grows older his brain will be able to transfer the sense of safety and non-judgment that you established. He will gradually learn to comfort himself and eventually learn how to use his emotions as a guidance system for how he navigates the challenges of life.)