|A peaceful moment...|
Now, before I go on, let me tell you something about myself.
I think at heart I haven't moved on much from my toddler years. I also have very strong emotions, an overwhelming temper at times, little in the way of will power, and am terribly impatient.
So you see I think I understand her very well.
I think in many ways a young child's life is so stressful. The biggest issue for them, I think, is the lack of control. I know that any hint of controlling behaviour in my own life pushes me over the edge! Despite the fact I give my daughter a lot of say in her life, in reality, we (her parents) call most of the shots. Then there's the newness of everything - the unavoidable bombardment with new experiences and people. Confusing situations and conversations. Not being able to do things you want to do. And there's being rushed around, fitting into other people's schedules...
It's no wonder that after a few hours/days/weeks of piled on stresses, a small child will melt down, over something seemingly trivial.
As a parent, I thought I had to teach her that aggressive, hurtful behaviour is unacceptable. I thought I had to give her lessons (lectures?) on feelings, even to go so far as to name her feelings for her. I thought I had to keep doing this, and see tantrums as "teaching" experiences". I thought at one stage maybe I could reason with her while she was in the middle of a red mist of rage, or at least that I definitely should discuss how she could have handled it all better when she had calmed down.
But now, I think not.
My daughter already knows that it's not OK to hurt people. She already knows about feelings. Children are quick learners - we've read about and discussed feelings already. I name my own feelings. I try to model good behaviour. And fail. But hey, she's got her Dad, a paragon of measured reactions, to learn from.
She is acting in this out of control way because she is out of control, not because she wants to be hurtful, or doesn't understand that it is hurtful.
Emotional meltdown and high emotions do not come from a place of reasoning, and a child cannot respond to any attempts to reason her out of a strong emotional reaction. Not in the moment.
I know when I feel like this, the last thing I need are lectures, attempts to reason with me, or a form of punishment. I don't need to be told I'm "naughty", or to have affection withdrawn. I don't need to be bribed to behave better (can you imagine?). I don't need people naming my emotions. I know how I felt, or at least it is for me to unravel how I felt- not others. I know my behaviour is completely unacceptable, and I already feel shame and regret. I already want to do better next time.
It is the same for my daughter
I'll tell you what helps me.
So that's how I try to react when my daughter has a "tantrum". Now I'm no saint (see above!), and of course I let a yell out of me, or run away to another room at times.
But when I can, I just let her express herself, and calmly let her know I'm there for a cuddle whenever she is ready. I stay close. When she calms down I might say something empathetic and genuine like "I think I know how you feel, I love you".
I don't let her hurt me or anyone else or damage anything.
And you know, come to think of it, she has less and less tantrums these days.
Sources of help: hand in hand parenting and Holistic Mum