We’ve all seen it. Some of us may have even done it.
When we’ve just about had it. When we want other people to see what we have to put up with. Or when it’s just too funny to not share.
The “It” I am talking about is recording your child having a tantrum.
Before we look at the “why not,” let’s look at why a child tantrums to begin with. (A small caveat, I am speaking in generalities here. There could be a host of other reasons behind your child’s tantrum and that’s where knowing your own individual child comes into play.)
But generally, the prefrontal cortex of a human (the front part of the brain that controls higher order thinking, rational thought, regulates emotion etc) begins to mature into its development around age 4. Brain researchers believe that this area of the brain also controls social behavior and language. So essentially, if this area is underdeveloped in children, it makes sense that kids just don’t have the words that adults do to calmly discuss what they are feeling and why. This is why “Use your words” often doesn’t work when trying to calm a frustrated toddler. If young children lack the ability to rationalize, it makes sense that trying to get them to rationalize is futile. In addition, stress hormones are surging during a tantrum. This is causing real feelings for your child. They aren’t just making it up or trying to manipulate you.
So, if it feels like it is near impossible to stop a child’s tantrum, it could be that the developing brain wiring just won’t allow it. But there is hope. You can help to reduce your child’s tantrums and maybe even avoid some of them.
What to try instead of recording your child having a tantrum:
- Be proactive. Some tantrums may be avoided by knowing your child. Are they hungry? Are they tired? Are they overwhelmed? Have they been tagging along on adult errands all day and just need a break or time to connect with you?
- Try to avoid a tantrum by giving choices that make sense. Kids love to have control since most of the time they don’t. If it’s possible for them to decide, let them. This also helps develop discernment.
- Sometimes picking battles is the way to go. It doesn’t mean you are giving in, but it does mean you are willing to compromise with things that can be compromised on.
- When it’s too late, and the tantrum is already here, it’s important to control your own emotions. Role model for your child what being calm looks like.
- In full blown tantrum, reasoning with your child won’t work. Remember, the stress hormones are surging. You know what it feels like to be so mad you can’t speak; when its feels impossible to control yourself. Your child may be feeling this way, and the deck of a not yet matured brain is stacked against them. Be there with her in these moments. Show him that you can handle his strong emotions.
- Try to see the emotion behind the behavior and reflect it back to your child. Is she scared, mad, sad? Be curious. Once you figure it out, say what you see. “You want those fruit snacks so badly! You feel so mad that I wouldn’t let you open them in the grocery store.”
Tantrums are complicated. But the bottom line is, whether your child is 4 or 14, they need you present with them when they are out of control, not behind a screen. They are already feeling disconnected from you in these moments. A device is only creating more distance. Taping them having a tantrum is only getting in the way of your ability to help them learn to manage strong emotions. Consider what you are role-modeling to them when you tape them tantruming. They need something else from you in that moment. Be curious about what it is.
Was this helpful? Email me your thoughts and experiences trying this technique at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are you feeling like the daily struggle is just too much? Are you worried your child may have needs that extend beyond what you are currently able to offer them? Do you live in Central New York? If you are interested in learning more about psychotherapy and play therapy for your child I can be reached at 315-737-3094 or email@example.com
Jennie Mazza Jones, LCSW, CCPT has a private practice located in Clinton NY, where she specializes in providing psychotherapy to children and their caregivers utilizing Play Therapy. Jennie helps kids who long to feel accepted, want to do well, and wish they could control their worries, anger, and behaviors, but struggle because they communicate in a way that many adults don’t understand. She also helps parents/caregivers who want to help the important children in their lives reach their truest potential, but are afraid to make the wrong move, fear the worst, or are just unsure of what to do next. Jennie can be reached 315-737-3094, firstname.lastname@example.org and www.jenniemazzajones.com