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Betsy Brown Braun

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Tantrums: Doing What Comes Naturally

Posted: 03/14/2012 12:07 pm

There's nothing like a toddler's tantrum or an older child's meltdown to bring a parent to her knees. It's one of those behaviors that makes you feel inadequate and helpless, to say nothing of incompetent.

Put that tantrum in a public place -- a restaurant, the grocery store, the school lobby --and you can add embarrassment, fear, and frustration to your own list of feelings. The ante is upped.

Believe it or not, tantrums are typical of children all over the world, and they look pretty much the same wherever you go. I have never heard of a child who makes it through childhood without having at least a few.

At its root, a tantrum is a result of frustration. Whether it is something the child can't have, can't do, can't express, or just can't tolerate, he is frustrated. His aspirations outweigh his ability. He wants to make all the decisions. He wants what he wants right now!

Couple that with "Lousy Local Conditions" and it's the perfect storm. Lousy Local Conditions occur when the environment sabotages the child's ability to be his best self. Whether he is tired or over-tired, hungry, exhausted from your errands, tuckered out from too many birthday parties, too many playdates, not enough naps, or just missing his traveling parent so much, he is spent. We all know how it feels when your resources are exhausted.

Tantrums rarely occur at convenient times or locations. And they are usually cumulative. The last straw is just the right excuse to let off steam.

Just remember, more often than not, your child did not choose his agenda. His agenda chose him. Tantrums are a part of normal development.

Here's how to deal with tantrums (when the train has left the station):

Mind Your Own Emotions
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While the tantrum may make you furious, your anger won't help; it will only make it worse. The mirror neurons in a person's brain cause him to match the emotions of the person with whom he is interacting. He will rise to your emotions. Stay calm, overly calm. It will help to bring him down as well as model that his explosion will not change your behavior or the outcome of the problem.

 
 
 

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