You might think this is about dealing with a toddler’s temper tantrums.
I am a Professional Nanny after all, right?!
No. This is not about how to prevent or intervene with temper tantrums. This is not even about how to make those full-tilt shrieking fits go away so you will now have a perfect, little angelic child that will never misbehave.
Nope. In fact, I used that title just to catch your attention (and it works!!).
A few months back, Southwest Airlines put a mother and her child off the plane since the little one was inconsolable on board. Later, the airline compensated the mother with $300 and an apology. Whether people agreed or disagreed with the airline’s decision, through all the comments from the media, I noticed two obvious groups here–the “anti-kids/kid haters” group, and the “if-you-don’t-like-my-child’s-kicking-and-screamings-then-go-somewhere-else” group. Either way, not much middle ground here. But like Southwest Airlines, I do not have an answer for it. I am not writing this because I have THE answer. What I do have is observations about temper tantrums.
Observation#1: It happens to everyone: Most of us would like to think we are immune from it, but throwing a fit is not an all-right-reserved behavior to a toddler or a teenager. Have you ever seen a full-blown adult throwing a fit? It can be quite “stylish.”
Observation #2: Temper tantrums seem to trigger something in us. Don’t think so? Next time, notice your body sensations and your attitudes when you encounter an overexcited child in a store. Though, you don’t need to go far to test out my observation–tomorrow, you might find your colleague throws one at work. Whatever those physical sensations/attitudes are, they are so automatic that you won’t even notice they are there. This leads to observation #3.
Observation #3: React to reaction is the dance we do: It seems we don’t deal with the tantrums, we REACT to tantrums. Simply said, we don’t respond to what is happening NOW, instead, we respond to our reactions to a reaction (temper tantrum that is). Just take a trip down your memory lane….. Think of someone that was kicking and screaming, what were your “reactions”– blood rushing through your body? Pit in your stomach? Racing heart beats? The frustration, the “whys”–why are you doing this to me/why can’t you do what I ask you to do/why can’t you cooperate, the “Not again,” and, of course, the embarrassment, and onlookers’ reactions and judgments. You thought your mission was to cease the behavior. Well, think twice. Whatever you come up with, time-out or spanking, giving choices or the attempt to reason with someone who is throwing a fit, you are dealing with your reactions, not what is happening NOW. This observation is not THE key to the kingdom of tantrum-free land (that is a fantasy, really!!). But there might be something else other than reacting, reacting, reacting (that’s like waiting for a bomb to drop, or busy putting out fire).
Observation #4: The “should” and the “should not”. Have you ever noticed before the outburst “officially” starts, the thought of “It shouldn’t be” or “It should be” comes across your mind? I use the word, “officially” since the battle doesn’t usually start until the thought of “it should/shouldn’t” starts. It’s like an expectation is thwarted. It could be as simple this scenario: “It’s time to eat. Let’s wash your hand.” (the adult’s expectation) “No.” “You need to wash your hands before you eat.” “No, I don’t want to. I am playing” (the child’s expectation). The battle begins–you coax the unwilling child, and the rest is history.
By now, you might be wondering “Where is she going with this?” Yes, you are looking for answers about a human behavior, called, “Temper tantrums”.
Unfortunately, I don’t have an easy answer. It seems temper tantrums are one of the most talked about parenting topics. There are workshops, books, even TV shows (Super Nanny, Nanny 911, Nanny Emma, Manny Nanny, just to name a few) about preventing IT from happening as if temper tantrums were some kind of disease. Well, it sure is dis-ease!! But, what if tantrum is just one of those moments in life that disrupts the “should be”? What if we give up our view of “It should be” (or “It shouldn’t be”)? I am not saying this is THE answer. No. But, what would, or could happen when we give up the “should” and the “should not”?
As I was enjoying my breakfast with a cup of coffee this morning, howling blasts mixed with yelling came though our wall from upstairs. It had been for more than 10 minutes. “Honey, should we call the police?” I said to my husband. “The kid is crying because her mommy is telling her no. That’s all. She is not abusing her child.” Oh. See how fast I react to my morning episode. I gave my husband a laugher of recognition.
Maybe, it might give us an opportunity to relate to, and allow us to discover something other than the “terrible twos.”