Temper tantrums are a topic of perennial relevance, except more now than ever. Why? Because Covid has pushed the limits of many homes, with children and teens learning to ‘rule the roost’ through demand and tantrums.
To avoid living with meltdown after meltdown, many parents have just given in. Understandable during these times…but still quite problematic.
Temper tantrums can range from a mild tantrum, where your child is stomping her feet and giving ugly looks to the more moderate tantrum, which might include some kicking, punching, or throwing. But there are extreme tantrums! Some of you are dealing with these out-of-control moments, where there is screaming, relentless kicking and punching, as well as tears and a meltdown that seems to last forever.
And what if these tantrums don’t go away? What does that look like at age 10, 12, or even 14? Well, it’s safe to say…not pretty. And it’s also safe to say that things will morph into more challenges both for parents and for the teenager tantruming to get their way.
So, let’s not end up there. Here are the essentials to ending those tantrums and meltdowns.
The Essential Tantrum Fixer Lessons
While there are several details to manage properly with temper tantrums, in this article I will cover two fundamentals of my Tantrum Fixer solution, which you can explore more at TerrificParenting.com if you want.
Lesson 1: You Must Learn To Stop Feeding The Tantrum
The tendency is for tantrums to have a clear beginning, middle, and end. As you see the tantrum emerging, notice the compelling tendency to try to stop it, negotiate with it or help your child around this moment. This is how we FEED the tantrum.
If you continue to feed a tantrum during any phase of the tantrum cycle, you will see a pattern emerges where the tantrum just seems to get worse and worse. (Initially, this may not be so obvious…but over time, this truth is revealed!)
Over and over again, tantruming children learn that their parents are invested in preventing or fixing their tantrums. In fact, it’s quite predictable that mom and dad will stop whatever they’re doing and come to give their energy and attention to the tantrum — in an effort to make it go away.
It is critical that your child learns that you will not repeatedly and consistently invest in their upset.
I caution you to avoid advice that suggests that there is a healthy way to talk your child through a tantrum. Yes, you can soothe your child (at times) quite effectively, it appears. The problem is that you inevitably end up spending your life doing more and more soothing and calming.
The short-term results are fantastic, but quickly your child learns that you are invested in their upset. This feeds the tantrums and the upsets, and more show up next week and even more the weeks following.
So stop investing in these upsets, and create some space for Lesson 2.
Lesson 2: Self Calming Is Learned Through Experience
Many of us make the mistake of thinking we can somehow teach our children to calm themselves down, while they are in the middle of an upset. The intention is admirable, but in reality, the strategy is destined to fail.
It becomes important to view self-calming as an acquired skill. Rather than you ‘giving’ your tantrum-prone child this skill, we need to think of you as a parent who creates opportunities for learning.
To learn self-soothing or self-calming, we simply must create enough space for the tantrum to go away. Eventually, it always does. It may not be pretty for a while, but it will fade away.
Like magic, your child (if you have not interfered) has then had a self-soothing moment. If we can string a few dozen of these together, we see an easeful self-calming unfolds. The tantrums go away more quickly, and life stabilizes.
Remember: The only way your child will learn to handle their emotions is to let them handle their emotions. It seems so simple and obvious, yet it’s true.
Is there more? Of course, but this will get you started on the right path. Just don’t try to keep fixing these ugly moments, by soothing or trying to make the pain or upset go away. You will see the trap you fall into, and the absence of learning that occurs. Instead, allow it to pass and then see what happens over time. Be patient, as it WILL be ugly for a few days. But these moments will pass, as the self-calming capacities begin to emerge.
Neurofeedback for Explosive, Severe Outbursts
In some circumstances, children have learned patterns of behavior that become deeply ingrained, and their brain becomes dysregulated. Typically, this involves an excess of slow-wave activity. This slow-wave activity, when extremely elevated, can produce behaviors that are very challenging to manage. Behaviors included in this type of condition include:
- Behavior dysregulation
- Explosive outbursts
- Panic disorders
- ADD & ADHD
- Focus and Motivation issues
- Sadness & depression
- Lack of confidence and poor sleep habits
While a comprehensive discussion of these topics is much more involved, the use of Neurofeedback to help may be important if you have more extreme behaviors, or you have a teenager who is explosive, and the pattern is deeply ingrained.
Neurofeedback is also highly effective with ADHD, ADD, anxiety, panic disorders, depression, and motivation. In many ways, we are finding that most brain-related conditions can be improved with Neurofeedback. To learn more, please reach to our offices, or set up a free consult with Dr. Cale.
Important Note: Take a breath and begin to feel some optimism. If you are struggling, please know that you can put your child on an entirely different life trajectory. From one of struggle to one of much greater ease…when using the right environmental and psychological tools. Solid parenting, crisp management of the home environment, and Neurofeedback work together to transform the way the brain works.