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Tantrums: How to support my child

Tantrums: How to support my child

, by Mona Jaber, 4 min reading time

“Calm down!” - a phrase so often used when addressing our tantruming child. Here’s the hard truth: They just can’t. Up until age 12, their brains are simply not developed enough for them to be able to self regulate. They NEED you to co-regulate with them. 

by Pascale

“Calm down!” - a phrase so often used when addressing our tantruming child. Here’s the hard truth: They just can’t. Up until age 12, their brains are simply not developed enough for them to be able to self regulate. They NEED you to co-regulate with them. 

The more we practice co-regulation when they’re very young, the earlier they will learn the skills needed to regulate their emotions. Until then, they need YOU. 

You might be thinking: “But I get angry, I get triggered, it’s hard for me to stay calm”. And that’s all understandable and normal if we, as adults, have not learned the skills to self regulate too.

Remember this: An escalated adult cannot de-escalate an escalated child. 

 You know the scenario, they are upset, you start raising your voice, they get more upset and it’s a downhill battle from there. And that’s what we, the adults, need to work on to support our child. How to stay calm in the storm, how to stay grounded and how to support the child through co-regulation. 

To start, I’d like to offer you 1 new perspective to remember every time your child is having a tantrum, causing trouble, triggering you… If we see this scenario through their eyes, if we put ourselves in their little bodies and (non fully developed) brain: this behavior IS NOT their little scheme to make your life difficult. They are not giving you a hard time. This behavior is simply showing us that They are having a hard time. And they don’t know how to communicate it, they need our support, some empathy and connection. 

So step 1: Tend to your own needs. What do YOU need in this moment to stay Calm. The easiest and most important thing to do is to Take a DEEP BREATH. Just breathe in, breathe out a little longer. This will tell your body that there is no real danger, no reason to speed the heartbeats and put us on high alert. You might find it helpful to ground yourself. Literally feel your feet on the ground, maybe even sit on the floor if you can. Remind yourself of what is true and what is not.

Are you in the supermarket and your mind is warning you about all the judgy stares and the belief that you are failing? Acknowledge that thought, tell it to keep moving as it’s not serving you. It is simply not true. The judgy eyes do not matter. What matters the most is to stay present in the moment and focus on what IS real: My child is having a hard time and they need me. 

Step 2: Instead of correcting/fixing/teaching/talking, stay quiet. Just listen, be there, offer a hug if they are willing, or stay close but don’t touch them if not. You are their safe space. Show them that their feelings matter. What their body is feeling is telling them something and we need to respect it. By staying calm yourself, by modeling breathing slowly, they will, at least, not escalate.

Step 3: Assess the situation: What is real here: have they missed a nap? Are they hungry? Is the noise overwhelming? Are they in a social experience they don’t feel comfortable in? Make your best empathy guesses, name their feelings: Are you feeling bored? Hungry? Tired? Do you need a hug? Would you like to go out for a walk? Is this place too loud? Were you trying to tell me something & I couldn’t hear you? Are you frustrated?... Name the emotions, find them in the body. 

Step 4: Access your sensory calming tools: What makes my child feel calm? A hug, some music, reading a book, playing with sand, dancing, fresh air, quiet, dark… Observe and take note of what each child (yes they are different) finds soothing and remember to use them in times of need.

Be aware of your own body’s needs to stay calm. Access your own sensory calming tools. 

To recap: Accept what is true and let go of what is not, Take it slow, Hold Space for them, Connect to the child to make them feel safe, Remember Sensory Calming Tools.

If there are 2 things you will remember from this article, let them be:
- Your child is not giving you a hard time, they are HAVING a hard time &
- They are unable to self regulate, they need you to co-regulate for years until they learn the skills to do it themselves.

About the Author: Pascale is a certified professional Parenting Coach and a mom of 2. After 10 years in the corporate world, Pascale discovered the power of coaching and mindfulness, which led her to shift careers and empower parents. 
Follow her on @parenting.moments or visit her website.

 

 

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