I’ve drifted pretty far away from conventional approaches to tantrums. I simply see them as emotional reactions. Disappointment, sadness, frustration, overwhelm, over stimulation, confusion, over tiredness, hunger, fear, an inability to parse words into sentences, an inability to vent a sudden strong feeling in a slower more calm way.
When I see my child having one of these reactions I don’t really view it as a single unified thing. It’s many things that manifest themselves loudly and with tears. Sometimes with hitting, foot stomping, yelling, crying, storming away or clinging close.
I still read a variety of pretty traditional publications, though. And so I see tantrums being talked about in terms of manipulation, “getting their way”, breaking the tantrum, disciplining the tantruming child, isolating them, ignoring them, training them to not tantrum.
It’s odd for me to read because I start asking “Is anger manipulative? Is sadness manipulative? Frustration?”
Truth is, many adults throw tantrums too. They curse. They throw things. Some even punch holes in walls. Some yell. Some storm away.
I learned as a young adult that what I feel and what is happening are separate things. I learned to slow down and try something else. To walk away from a frustrating thing and try again later when I am calm with a clearer head. I learned to seek help, to watch, and to try again myself once I had a better picture of what it was that I was trying to accomplish.
I am teaching my children those life skills now as they are small. I believe that they are learned skills that can be mastered and used throughout life.
I don’t believe that I need to ignore, to isolate, to break, or to give in or bribe a child to stop feeling something that they can slowly and surely learn to harness and control.
Kids are people. They’re immature people with strong feelings and not much experience with how the world works. They need the years to learn that and to experience things and for their brains to grow and develop to the point where everything is in place.
There’s a name for that. Maturity.
You can’t wave a magic wand over a fifteen month old or a two year old or a four or eight year old.
It’s something that they grow into. With support, patience, and teaching.