Tampa Bay Center of Relational Psychology

When tantrums get your goat, find your strength.

children tantrums

No matter how much we love our children and even despite the really terrific loving moments, we’ve all been there … vexed by a dilemma in parenting and wondering how to solve the problem or whom to ask. Taken to the brink of patience and questioning how such a small child can so effectively step on your last nerve.  Feeling like you really don’t know what to do to get back in control of yourself or the situation.  Wondering how to balance all the advice and opinions you’ve received about how to solve your child’s problems and wanting to avoid the mistakes made on you.  Experiencing exhaustion with your child or dreading certain interactions.  Or realizing that the more upset you get, the more upset they get – a seemingly endless cycle in which the situation feels more and more out of your hands.

These can be some of the most upsetting experiences in life – wanting to do the best for your kids and not feeling as though you have the tools to do it well can drain your self-confidence, create tremendous stress, and spark arguments and criticisms between the adults involved in the parenting process.  For many people, wanting to be an effective parent – a “good” parent – is at the heart of your life’s desires.  So why don’t kids come with owner’s manuals?! 😊

For many people, the main source of learning about how to be an effective parent comes from your own parents.  And for most of us, our own parents didn’t get schooled in parenting skills and had limits in what they knew or could teach. For some, home life actually exemplified all the things you shouldn’t do, rather than what you should.  Getting access to really good – and use-able – ideas for how to deal with both the normal challenges of kids as well as the special situations where problems have cropped up, can be challenging and confusing. 

A good roadmap can be hard to find when dealing with children tantrums.

From my experience – both personal and professional – the raising of young children needs to have three bases of knowledge and skills to form a good roadmap: understanding normal child development and what is going on in the mind and body of your developing young one, a working knowledge of behavior modification, and a system for teaching your children to understand and manage their feelings.  Understanding child development gives you the capacity to anticipate what your child will experience. When you can “read” your child accurately, you have an advantage that allows you to assist him or her with the developmental tasks ahead and avoid misinterpretation and misunderstandings (“is he being defiant or is it normal to want to do everything his own way?”).  Behavior modification – setting fair rules and consequences and applying those rules in a consistent way – is the foundation of what helps young children learn about the world and how to get their needs met in the world.  Even before a child can reason complexly, he or she understands that consequences follow actions. Being able to master the “rules” of the world can give your child a great deal of satisfaction, whereas not being able to do so can cause him or her heartache and failure.  So a parent’s ability to teach their child how to follow rules and accept consequences for poor choices is at the heart of helping them be successful in the world.  Finally, understanding and putting a name to their own emotions, managing the ups and downs of those feelings – whether that be sadness, excitement, anger, jealousy, or a host of other feelings – and being able to soothe themselves and create inner calm and stability when distressed – are the cornerstones of helping them avoid anxiety, depression, impulsivity and the negative consequences for themselves and their relationships of acting on painful emotions.

One of the greatest ironies is that we can’t teach effectively what we don’t know ourselves. So most people also find that having children “helps” you learn what you don’t know about your own emotions or about being consistent or not being able to soothe yourself, etc. (😊!) Once you get over ruefully shaking your head about the interesting things you realize you don’t know, it opens up the door for you to learn those skills in service of making a better model and outcome for your children.  This last area can be challenging but is often among the most rewarding parts of being a parent.

It can be difficult to ask for help because our own expectations for ourselves – and the sometimes judgmental reactions handed out by others – can create barriers to letting down our guard, acknowledging to ourselves and others that we don’t know how to handle certain problems, or even putting our questions into words.  But it can be done!  I’ve had the good fortune to witness so many people create order out of chaos for their kids and improve their own sense of themselves as parents that I encourage you to see those outcomes as very achievable.  I love and strongly recommend the books:

If you are a person who learns well from self-help books, these are great foundations. If you’d like an expert to coach you through using some strategies for children’s tantrums, please give us a call at 813-907-9191 or schedule an appointment with our team. We’re glad to assist you!



Words from TBCRP

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