#Fearless Parenting - Temper tantrums - Distress or Manipulation?
Temper tantrums are scary, both for the child and the parent. They usually happen because the brain isn't developed enough to deal with powerful emotions any other way.
Contrary to popular belief, most tantrums aren't battles for power. They are genuine emotional pain and should be treated seriously.
If we repeatedly punish, or ignore our children during a 'storm of emotion', they miss out on a chance to form brain pathways that will help them regulate their feelings in later life.
How to tell the difference between a genuine distress tantrum and a manipulation one?
When children are in genuine distress, they will find it difficult to listen or talk; all they can do is release their emotions. During a 'fake' tantrum, there's usually no tears and children can articulate their demands, or argue. These types of tantrums are quite obvious, so if you think your child is in real emotional pain, she probably is.
How to deal with distress tantrums?
Avoid getting angry or leaving the child alone. Sit with her, or hold her tenderly. Simple words, such as 'I know' or 'I'm here' can help reassure her. If your child is young enough, provide a distraction; It can help override her brain's distress system and calm her down.
How to deal with manipulation tantrums?
Even when it's clear that your child is only kicking and screaming to get what she wants, avoid getting angry or embarrassing her. Give firm No's and ignore the behavior; don't negotiate or show affection. The most efficient technique is usually humor: mirror her back to herself, or shout her demands at a piece of furniture.
Although challenging, distress tantrums are a great opportunity to help our children develop essential brain pathways. We should all be able to distinguish between these and the manipulation tantrums that must be ignored.
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