Have you heard the country song, “I Just Want to be Mad for Awhile” by Teri Clark?
One of my kiddos can throw the most spectacular tantrums, especially when she was a three year old. These tantrums could come out of no where. Sometimes they began when I had to say no to something she wanted. But sometimes, they appeared out of nowhere.
To me, seemed as if my child was singing, “I Just Want to be Mad for Awhile.”
While I am no tantrum expert, I have found a few things that do and do not work for my own family.
1) Negotiating does not work. Telling her to use her words or that I will not respond until she calms down does not work. She simply cannot communicate well when she is that upset.
2) Ignoring the tantrum doesn’t work. Ignoring does not help her move forward in shaping her behavior. Remember that all behavior is communication and this kind of communication must be heard. It is desperate at it’s core.
3) Time outs do not work. Time outs signal that my sweetheart is so despicable that I can’t stand to be with her.
It is important to remember that as painful as it is for parents when their kids have a tantrum, it is even more painful and disconcerting to the child. It does not feel good to have a tantrum.
What works is to bring comfort to a hurting child. Just as a mother would comfort them if they had an owie, comforting my child through a tantrum is the best way to deal with it. To those parents who think that bringing comfort just rewards the behavior, remember, I am not giving in to whatever triggered the tantrum, I am just comforting my child through it. I can tell her that I understand that she is upset and I am here to comfort.
I do not believe that my child is singing the “I just want to be mad for awhile song.” I believe that a tantrum expresses a deep age-old question that is especially real for adoptees. That question is, “Do you love me? Do you love me even when I am behaving in an unlovely way?”
When we respond in a loving, forgiving, way, we model just how our Father in Heaven responds to us. “Yes. My child. I love you.”