How to deal with tantrums and challenging behaviours

How to deal with tantrums and challenging behaviours is the main subject of my latest blog.

Being a parent is difficult.

We are human, and I am sure you, like me, had moments of your child refusing to listen and you need to get out the door.

Or, you say no to something and get a tantrum that seems to come out of nowhere and is uncontrollable.

You might feel embarrassed in public or feel your emotions boiling over.

This is normal.

You are not a bad parent just because you snapped a few times.

You are just human.

Now let’s look at new options to deal with these stressful circumstances that will get a better outcome, make your children listen to your more and, most importantly, make these situations less stressful.

First, we have to understand that your child is not choosing their behaviour and do not choose to act in this way.

The part of your child’s brain that self-regulates only starts to develop around age eight and reaches competition in the mid-twenties.

Your child can’t calm themselves down, and that’s why their logic goes offline when they are highly emotional, so they can’t control their behaviour.

They are in a state of stress, and in this state, the brain is wired to allow only a few responses.

Fight, flight or freeze.

Freeze tends to lead to trauma and is when the nervous system is so overwhelmed that it collapses and a state of helplessness where we dissociate to avoid imminent life threats and the pain involved.

So, the more typical response is fight and flight. Your child scream, hit or similar, which is a fight response.

Or they run away and pretend to ignore you, which is flight.

They don’t choose these responses. But, they are the only option for a child with a stress response.

Next time you have tension with your child or behaviour you find challenging try this…

  1. Focus on yourself first.

You can’t calm your child while you are stressed.

It’s more likely your response will escalate the situation and make it worse as your stress will make your child more stressed, so their challenging behaviour will intensify.

Our children pick up our nervous system based on tonality and facial expressions and will either escalate distress or calm your child.

Some tools you can use are

  • Notice your feet. Are they warm or cold? What sensation is your feeling in your feet?
  • Movement is how we release stress, so move. Dance, walk, swim. Just move.
  • Slow down your breathing. Count slowly to 4 as you breathe in and four as you breathe out.
  • Create and demand time to rest when tired.
  • Self-compassion. Remind yourself others struggle too, and people judge when they are fearful. It’s a projection of their fear onto you. You are doing the best you can. We get things wrong sometimes, and our kids will be OK. It’s how we repair that matters.
  1. Witnessed

We all have an inherent need to be seen and heard.

It lets us know we are valued and wanted.

Validate their experience creates trust in themselves and grows their self-worth.

It can be as simple as saying, “I get it’s frustrating that you can’t have that ice cream right now; that would make me angry too.”

  1. Connect first

You can’t teach your child anything when they are in stress response or when they feel disconnected from you.

So, to connect, you must meet them where they are at.

Do something with them that they enjoy.

Give them full attention and put away the TV, laptop or phone.

Time and attention are the currency of love, and your child can sense if you are present with them and your level of presence communicate to them how valued they are.

A great way out of stress is to play, and it’s a critical part of supporting secure attachment and safety in children, so give them focused playtime.

I highly recommend the fantastic online resources on theembodylab membership.

Their in-depth certificate also provides some great tools to support your children.

If you want to learn more about me and my work and how to raise confident and resilient children, check out my website.

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