14 Mar Q: I want a calmer house with fewer tantrums!
A: A calmer house is the holy grail of parenting! While it sounds lovely, it’s also important to be realistic. Children have developing brains so have not got the ability to be calm when upset and parents get triggered and respond in ways that fuel the upset.
The reader doesn’t say who is having the tantrums so let’s be very real about this and explore both parents and children’s ability to tantrum. The only way children can let people know they are not ok is by having big emotions that come out as tantrums. Because of this, the first thing we are going to do is to reframe the expression tantrum to something more helpful. When a parent uses the word tantrum it often means that they are seeing this explosion of emotions as annoying, exhausting and something that they don’t want happening.
Try thinking to yourself, “my child is having a hard time”, “my child doesn’t know how to tell me what they need”, “my child is overwhelmed, upset or over stimulated”. And then move to the action part of how to help them. When any of us are upset it doesn’t look pretty. So move away from mentioning the actions that come with tantrums. The logic part of the brain isn’t available, so don’t try to talk and explain the rationale of what’s happening. Some of this is a waiting game. Waiting until the children’s brains are developed enough to regulate, rationalise and understand what’s happening and then control the outcome of these big emotions we all suffer with.
So back to the question, how can you have a calmer house with less tantrums? The great news is that there is so much that you can do to change what’s going on. How you respond is the most crucial part of helping big emotions. Do you shout, punish, roll your eyes or walk away? Or can you let your child know in your facial expression, tone of voice and body language (they may not want you touching or talking to them) that you know they’re having a hard time?
When you help those big emotions feel safe you are teaching your child how to suffer and there’s no shame attached to it. This can only take place if you’ve worked through your own triggers and what’s hard for you about the tantrums. A significant part of this difficulty in tolerating tantrums is that our bodies release memories of what it was like to be that age and parents repeat how they were treated. Perhaps your body is remembering what it was like when you expressed big emotions and it feels deeply uncomfortable. This is where re-parenting the parent goes in tandem with raising a child.
Can you soothe yourself alongside your child to make those experiences safe for you both?
Children are looking for predictable and consistent relationships with their parents. So perhaps you’ve to heal the part inside you that wasn’t treated consistently as a child. And take lots of breaks to stop throughout the day to fill your internal reservoir so that you’ve got the patience to tolerate the outbursts from everyone as the day goes on.
My experience is that this aspect of parenting can be the most challenging for most parents. It often comes with guilt, shame and feelings of not being a good enough parent. This is why I created the free 5 Steps to Calmer Parenting, set up the free Calm & Confident Parenting Community and meet parents at 1 to 1 consultations. If you’re feeling stuck and unsure how to move forwards, book your free call with me to talk things through.