Did you think you would be done with kid tantrums when they got a little older? I thought so! Have you had kids throwing fits recently? Mine have been!
My kids are now 6, 9 and 17. We are way past the terrible two’s (and two was never our worst age for this anyway), but my kids still have temper tantrums. I don’t know if the pandemic has made this worse (probably), but kids have challenges at every age and stage of growing up.
I talked about some of the ways I deal with kids losing control of their emotions in one of my first posts a couple of years ago (Time Out). My best advice? Keep your cool, love them, have patience, and give them space to calm down. Also, feed them a healthy snack.
We all lose our cool when we are overwhelmed or frustrated. Our job as parents is to teach our kids how to handle our emotions and how to deal with those frustrations. And it is so hard!
Life is not a piece of cake. Sometimes life is very hard.
More so for kids. They think everything in their world is the most important thing. Our youngest had several total meltdowns yesterday when she didn’t get her way. The middle freaked out when he didn’t get to play with friends after school every day last week. And the teenager goes through rounds of lashing out because she gets stressed about school and getting everything done.
I try to give each of them time to calm down (a time out is not just for toddlers…it is good for us to give ourselves, too!), then use reason to point out why I’ve said no, or why we need to do something other than what they want RIGHT NOW.
Are you ever tempted to throw a tantrum? I know I have lost my temper more (or it seems like it) this year than in the past. We have all been home together a lot. We are in each other’s spaces, and we’ve all had our fill of family time here and there. When I do, my husband looks at me like I have three heads. Then he takes the kids out for a drive or bike ride or something else and gives me space for an hour or two. And we’re all better for that!
Everyone needs alone time. When my kids were little, they would fall asleep about ½ the time when I put them in time out. And sometimes they would just go play in their rooms quietly by themselves. Sometimes that is exactly what they need!
This week, we are coming out of a cold spell that was so rough. My kids like to play outside no matter the weather, usually…but we had sub-freezing temps for a solid couple of weeks, and last week was barely in the 30’s most days. Last Monday, the kids played with their neighborhood friends for a couple of hours after school. The youngest missed her Zoom dance class, and that was ok, because she was getting fresh air and having fun and not cooped up inside. I don’t think it was very warm, but the sun was out, and they came inside with muddy shoes and big smiles.
Sometimes, kids get cranky and throw fits when they want devices…or when they’ve had them too much. (See my thoughts on Screen Time, pre-pandemic). I tend to think that a little screen time is okay, but if it affects behavior, my answer is to send the kids outside or off to do other things. Coloring/drawing, puzzles, craft projects, and free play are all great alternatives if it is cold out.
Our family has been working pretty solidly as a group on a big renovation project and all that goes with it. And with our focus on that project, one on one time with the kids has suffered. We have spent two months of weekends focused on that project. It is going to be fun and amazing when it’s done, but not while we’re in it – especially for the kids. Sunday, I gave them all a pass and let them hang out at home watching movies. And it was probably best for all of us.
I tend to be a pretty chill mom…until I’m not. I don’t like repeating myself a hundred times, and I do lose my temper. But, I try to keep it together when my kids are falling apart. They need us to be the calm voice of reason, giving a hug and just letting them sit on our laps for a few minutes to re-set. And if they don’t calm down after that, taking a little time out by themselves.
I talked last year around this time about Being the Strong Mom. Telling your kids “no” is a good thing. Giving boundaries and setting limits – whether it is screen time, playing video games, or other activities (and this can be minimum times to do things too, like reading time) – all of these are good things that help kids grow into healthy, well-adjusted humans. They will push those boundaries, constantly. Kids are always going to want more time to play, more time with friends, more junk food, etc. I want more of those things, too! As parents, it isn’t always easy to set those limits or tell them no. And thus, tantrums.
Holding firm and sticking to your guns can be even harder when they are throwing a fit. Of course we want to give them all the things and make them happy. But we also don’t want to raise spoiled brats. So, boundaries. Stay strong out there, mamas and dads!
Know that all of us have had our share of parenting through the tantrums and fights.
I use a count to 5 as a warning for a time out, then anything from 5 to 20 minutes in the time out chair or up to their room for a re-set, depending on the level of upset. I usually give that time to calm down, then offer a snack (healthy snack, no sugar reward for being naughty), and see what is really bothering them. Then, we have a talk about why they were mad, and go from there. We talk it out. I challenge them to think about how they behaved, and whether that was the best choice for getting what they wanted.
Remember that every action we take is a choice. Keeping control of our emotions can be hard. We all get upset. Kids are going to lose their temper, lose control, and they will throw fits. How we handle the tantrums (even our own) helps them figure out what to do as they grow, and they do eventually learn a little more control along the way.
One of the phrases my kids say – a lot – is “that’s not fair.” And I respond, often, with “life isn’t fair.” Which is true. We try to do fun things with our kids, and I’m not at all above bribing them to be good when I really need it. I tried to get the middle out of a meltdown over taking a pile of toy tractor and semi-trailers with us to move things to the office building yesterday (we told him one toy, not 10), with a promise of Dairy Queen if he could help work for two whole hours. He made it one hour, and was whiny and bailed on us after another 20 minutes…and he did not get ice cream, even after eating a good dinner.
I would have liked an ice cream last night. But, I didn’t need it anyway, and it was important for us to say “no” when our son didn’t follow through on the deal. Meltdowns and tantrums are hard. Teaching our kids how not to do it by giving incentives and rewards for being good is part of the deal.