Just before our first daughter Faith turned three, her sweet temperament turned rebellious, and her escalating fits and tantrums began to fragment our loving family. Timeouts, no matter how long, and spankings didn't seem to faze her. Physically hurting her is not a parenting option for me. But I was beginning to wonder if any of us would survive her tantrum stage.
I remember the night everything changed. What had begun as a fun evening with Faith at a local festival turned into the perfect storm when finally my wife Tammie and I told Faith it was time to leave. Faith fell down on the ground and started screaming. I picked her up and put her under my arm and walked her briskly out of the festival grounds to my truck. She kicked and wailed, swung her arms and even tried to bite me. She screamed all the way home.
But Faith's tantrums would end with that long night.
Here are 10 tips we followed to stomp out the tantrums:
1. Let your yes be yes, and your no be no (most of the time)
Sometimes if your child wants something bad enough and it won't hurt them, let them win so you don't break their spirit.
2. Realize that tantrums can be inconvenient and embarrassing for everyone
Know the steps for parenting through the tantrum before it happens and be ready to show the child your love is real, and your rules are important enough to stand against their tantrum.
3. Take time to see the tantrum through
Don't give in. A strong-willed child can wear you down and wait you out, so settle in for the long haul. Their will may be strong, but your love is stronger, and love perseveres!
4. Realize that they really don't want to win
They don't really want control. They are most secure with consistent structure and a parent they can count on to be their parent in every situation.
5. Remain calm
Children's emotions and their own tantrums can scare them. A child needs the parent to be calm and firm and willing to help the child work through the tantrum.
6. Discipline with love, not frustration or anger
Let the child see and feel your unconditional love, even during their tantrum. Speaking with a quiet voice can bring their tantrum noise level down a decibel or two. Never forget, the tantrum is not about you, but about what's best for them, and tell them that, so they don't think you only want to keep them from getting what they want.
7. Remain the adult
Don't give in to the child or to your own inner-child.
8. Stay focused on what you want the child to learn from the incident
Find the life lesson and teach it through love and example. Wait for an opportunity to help the child save face and come around. Sit with them"Â¯and if necessary take them away from other people."Â¯When they calm down enough to hear you, tell them you love them enough to help them understand that there is a better way to express and manage their emotions; and that throwing tantrums, disrespecting authority, and not considering others is behavior you don't want them to learn-because it will destroy their lives.
9. Let your child become part of the resolution to the tantrum
Don't let them have their way, instead have them talk respectfully about their feelings, or have them apologize for their behavior.
10. Reassure the child
When the tantrum is over, make sure you reassure the child of your love and their worth and praise them for any of their behavior through the episode that was positive.
Trust makes the difference in turning tantrums around. Trust lays the groundwork. Parents' consistent actions and reactions teach a child to trust that their parents mean what they say, and their parents will truly try their best always to do what is best for the child. Tammie and I had already worked hard to establish that trust with our daughter.
For the better part of three hours the night of the Rice Festival, Faith sat strapped in her car seat screaming and crying. I sat with her in the truck parked in our driveway. In between her screaming fits, I told her I loved her, and that we wouldn't get out of the car and go in until she had apologized for her behavior. It seemed an eternity before I finally heard Faith whisper, "I'm sorry, Daddy."
I snatched her out of that seat so fast she didn't know what happened and we both cried like babies together. I was so afraid she would resent me, but I was so amazed that, instead, she held me tighter than she ever had before. I just kept telling her how proud I was of her for saying she was sorry, how much I loved her, how she was such an amazing little girl and how I never wanted her to act like that again. When we went in the house, we celebrated Faith's apology to her mother, with the focus on Faith's good behavior, not her tantrum.
The takeaways for Faith:
Her feelings could not command every situation, her behavior that night was unacceptable, and her tantrums would never change those truths.
I cared enough about her to sit with her in the storm of her emotions, to teach her rather than cave to her emotions, to wait for her heart's apology and to love her through it all.