Throwing a tantrum: our language problem
When we speak about our child’s tantrums, we usually use the words ‘throw’.
“Why are you throwing a tantrum?”
“No throwing tantrums!”
“Why are you doing this?”
We also talk about “creating a fuss” or “creating a scene/drama”.
This is not only with respect to our children but we may also do it with respect to our spouse or sometimes friends.
Let’s look at it closely.
All of us experience some intense emotions. We have learnt to deal with them from our parents or on our own.
Most of us were not taught how to deal with our overwhelming emotions in an adaptive way. Even if we were, it was not in as systematic and thorough way as we were taught to use our intellects.
All of us were taught, through social interactions, to not unleash our emotional reactions in public.
When the impulse to stop public display of our reactions is overruled by the intensity of our reaction, we helplessly watch ourselves having a meltdown- no matter what our age is.
And this applies to us adults with fully developed brains. Children don’t have that luxury of development at their disposal yet.
So, our children are not the ones throwing tantrums, or creating a scene. The child simply is overwhelmed and cannot handle their emotions. It is not something that the child is doing but something that is happening to the child. Once we look at it from this perspective, there is space for empathy, kindness and compassion to emerge in us instead of impatience, frustration and anger.
You can also think about this perspective in all your relationships.
Note: When a child stops crying when we shout at them “stop crying!”, it’s not the same as soothing. In fact the child is pushed to use even more maladaptive mechanisms of dissociation and disconnection in order to cope with your shouting.
Activity: Every time your child experiences a tantrum, remind yourself that it is not something that the child is doing. Take deep breaths to make sure you are grounded and ask yourself, how can I help my child cope with their situation and soothe them?