Children's tantrums are not what they seem: how to manage them

  • 2015

Let me start by saying that both children and any adult need to express their emotions and feelings. The children are authentic and spontaneous therefore they feel their emotions intensely. When they express them, it is to make us see and realize their great evil. Emotions and feelings are to be felt and expressed. They are the defense mechanism that nature gave us to connect with what causes us pain or lack. However, many of us learned to repress them many years ago for fear of being judged, criticized, mistreated, not accepted, rejected, scolded, punished, stuck or unloved.

Calling a tantrum, tantrum or tantrum to a child's behavior when he needs to express an intense emotion or feeling of great evil is to make a judgment and label him. His feeling of frustration and helplessness is so great that he needs to express it by crying or screaming. Sometimes we deny them their innate drives or their most basic needs are not met. When we feel fear, anguish, frustration, devaluation, helplessness, anger, judgment ... Adrenaline and cortisol levels rise in our brain. This causes an uncontrolled emotional reaction in children and headache or migraine in adults . At that precise moment for the indexes to go down they need our serenity, calm, love and time to be able to relax and calm down. If we get out of control we will not feel safe or accepted and start over ... They have the right to feel bad. Our responsibility is to try to avoid such situations or in case of explosion accompany lovingly validating and naming what they feel.

In my opinion, the most important thing is not how we are going to accompany these “tantrums” or what we can do to calm them down once they have lost control. That would come later. Our responsibility as adults is to go beyond and accept and recognize that behind every “tantrum” there is an absolutely valid and legitimate motive whether we are aware of it or not. Not being aware or knowing what caused or continues to cause such discomfort does not exempt us from the responsibility of trying to find out in order to avoid it in the future. If our gaze were more on how they feel instead of how they BEHAVIOR we would avoid many conflicts.

No child cries, screams, hits or gets angry to annoy or ridicule their parents. They simply do what nature programmed and designed. As I have already mentioned, emotions and feelings are to be expressed not repressed. We already know that having to repress negative emotions to obtain the approval of others causes alterations in behavior and learning and distances us from our essential being, but that would already be another issue.

We adults are the ones who can make them a model when it comes to showing our emotions and feelings. Unfortunately, many of us also lack tools and we want and need children to control themselves so that we do not lose ours. The truth is that it should be the other way around. If we are in a public place we still feel worse for fear of being judged by other people. In those moments we should ask ourselves:

What happens to me when my child does not meet my expectations or those of others?

Where and from whom did I learn to be afraid of being judged by others?

Why do I care more about what others are thinking and feeling than what my son thinks and feels right now?

How did we react as children to anger or frustration and how did our parents manage it?

In those moments it would be necessary to give voice to our son:

Is there anything I could do to make you feel better?

Do you need anything?

Can I hug you or kiss you?

I understand that you are very angry or frustrated about why, but it is that

Do you want to tell me or ask me something?

If at that time you cannot speak or listen to us, after a few hours we can name the past and give it a voice again.

We tend to be authoritarian and arbitrary with children, we send them, we force them, we shriek them, we hurry them, we threaten them, we criticize them, we lecture them, we judge them, we punish them, we hit them, we reward them, we compare them, they We evaluate, we examine them In summary, they have very few occasions to be able to be themselves and make their own decisions. They live in a world made by and for adults. Sometimes they have very little in mind. We are the adults who decide when they go to sleep, when they get up, when they have to shower, when, what and how they should eat, what clothes they should wear and which not, when they can play or not and what How and how long, how and how they should learn and at what rate, with whom we leave them Our needs and desires almost always precede that of children. It is they who must adapt to us and this fast and stressful way of life. Some will think that I exaggerate and especially those that we call ourselves conscious parents and that we practice education and respectful upbringing. However, the behavior of our children gives evidence that perhaps some needs are not being met and that there is some discomfort.

Let's put ourselves in a place for a moment. In their little bodies, in their minds, in their little hearts, in their souls What do you think your son, grandson or student may be feeling right now?

And not only this but also we, their parents, the most important people for them, are stressed, busy and worried most of the time to keep up with the pace we have set ourselves. We are not, sometimes, the best model for them.

Children need our daily attention and presence. How many real hours or minutes a day are we present and connected with them? I don't mean sharing the same space each doing their own thing. I mean being with our heart and mind with and for them, without mobiles, without tasks, without thinking ... Simply being, sharing, listening, watching ... Many times they ask for material or sweet little things as shifted attention requests. They feel empty, emotionally speaking, and need to be filled.

They need to be loved unconditionally and not because of how they behave or how much they learn.

They need to be looked at, heard and taken into account.

They need to be able to make some decisions about their own tastes, preferences and interests.

They need to be able to keep up. They need to be able to make a mistake to realize and be able to learn.

They need not be judged or criticized.

They need to be accepted by who they already are and not by who we expect and want them to be.

They need to feel respected and worthy of our love. They are not different from adults, they are simply younger but human beings with the same needs as us adults.

We as children needed the same thing but we forgot. And many of us did not have it, perhaps for this reason it is so difficult for us to give it now as adults. It is tremendously difficult to give what you did not have. We have no emotional record or role model. We usually do to the children the same thing they did to us. Let's help them to become who they have come to be. Let's do our best to become the mom or dad they need us to be.

Childhood is the shortest stage of an individual's life and it is the one we want to pass faster. And paradoxically, our whole life will depend on how we have lived those first years of protection or helplessness. Why do we have trouble allowing children to be children when they really are? A child of 2 years, 5 years or 9 years can only be a child of 2 years, 5 years or 9 years for 1 year of his life. It will never be again.

Childhood is the most important stage of a human being. All our character, personality, characteristics, abilities, qualities, passions, talents, principles and beliefs depend on the childhood we have lived. It is when children make all the neural connections necessary for their future learning. It is when they understand how the world works. It is when you build your self-esteem, security, empathy and identity. It is when they learn the values ​​of the adults around them. It is when they connect or disconnect from their emotional world. It is when they can connect with their essential being or not and then be able to make their own decisions. It is when they depend more on us and our unconditional love. They need us now, today, at this precise moment. There is a phrase that I like very much: "Mom, mom ... love me when I least deserve it because it will be when I need it most ..."

Having said all this and looking a little more at the emotional reality of children, I wonder how they will not have explosive emotional reactions from time to time with what they are having to endure and live. That said it might seem like I'm exaggerating, right? Many times we do not see the whole scenario, we only see that he has lost control why he wanted this or that and we think that this toy or that candy is the reason or cause of a tantrum. The truth is that there is much more at stake but we do not stop to see it nor are we aware of it. The whims and tantrums are simply the experiences they use to be able to give expression to their internal discomfort. The toy or candy is simply what they need to download everything else. When a child gets out of control so much when we say "no" to something, it is not only because of that "no" but because of all the "noes" he has been listening to for some time . I explain myself, by denying something to a small child he lives it as a refusal to his vital drive, his desires, his life, his being and his person. And sometimes he can't stand it.

What can we do then? We're not going to give them everything they want, right? Of course not, you will think some. If we talk to a child, we explain, we listen to him, we understand him, we accept him as he is without resisting him, since he is little, it will be easier for him to understand that something can not be or cannot have it. It is not the same to report a limit and validate your emotions than to arbitrarily limit. Nor is it a matter of us being the ones in control or having them. It's about not doing so many things "to" the children and doing more things "with" them. Talk to them, explain to them, validate their emotions and name our needs and try to meet theirs as much as possible.

They need us to be more complicit and less rivals. There is a lot of emotional disconnection and lack of communication between parents and children today and a lot of power struggle. That is sometimes the real cause of many tantrums.

We don't spend enough time with them . I mean the time they need, not what we are willing to give them. They lack presence, look and acceptance. Although there is little time we spend with them if it is with presence and connection they notice and thank you . Their wishes are important to them just as ours are to us. Many times we can think that our son is different, that we are spending time and we love and accept him and yet he continues to behave in the same way. Every day of my life I look at our 3 children and as they feel and behave I know whether or not I am sufficiently present and connected with them and if they feel sufficiently respected, free, looked at and taken into account to be themselves and take Some decisions I cannot judge whether I am giving them what they need or not. I can only know and verify by observing them. When they are restless, they need to annoy others, they complain frequently ... It is like the little red light in the tank emptying that it is telling me that they lack look, presence or attention. In those moments it is when they need us most and we should be more aware of their discomfort and disconnection. I have already said on many other occasions that when we feel good we behave well. When we feel bad we behave badly. This is true for children and adults.

It is very difficult for a child to manage his discomfort and lack of connection with dad and mom. He feels alone, confused and lost. Simply express it and we name it as tantrums, tantrums or tantrums. As if that will be part of human design or an evolutionary stage of its development. These expressions are the side effect of the discomfort or disconnection they feel inside. They are the symptom, not the problem itself.

A happy, happy, satisfied, unconditionally loved child, (without conditions, simply for being who he is) respected, taken into account, valued ... does not need to explode emotionally. He gets angry or frustrated, of course, as everyone happens to us from time to time but if we are with him and we validate him and accompany him and give his name to what happens to him he will surely manage and understand it. We have to hold them. It is not about avoiding all hostile situations or allowing everything. It is about how we manage it and understand the origin of such discomfort and accept our share of responsibility.

There are those who defend that babies and children cry to give expression to stress as a discharge for what they are enduring as if that were something natural. For a child to feel stress is not natural at all. That a child needs to download is not natural. Personally, I disagree with this argument since stress is caused by an increase in adrenaline and cortisol in the brain due to great fear, discomfort or traumatic experience. To think that a child needs to cry and kick to heal is not entirely accurate. A child needs love, contact, attachment, presence, permanence, availability, look and listening to heal. If he cries and kicks it is because he continues to feel bad and emotionally disconnected from mom and dad.

When it has already exploded, it is because there was an emotional lack, discomfort or unmet need and that is when it needs to be able to express it and take it out but not to confuse it with that this is the natural way of expressing stress. That is the natural and unique way a child has to ask for help, love, look, understanding, acceptance, presence, attention. Once there is stress. It will have to be taken out and expressed. We are here to see, accept, change or improve what you feel at that moment and try to prevent it in the future.

Just make him feel good. He cries and kicks why he feels bad and disconnected, let's not forget it. We can do something to provoke well being and inner peace and then such an expression is no longer necessary. Even babies who have been born from very traumatic births having to be separated from their mothers to be surgically intervened have almost not needed to cry if they have then been able to be body to body with their mother (kangaroo method). They cry when they live the hostile experience, while they are feeling it in their guts, not when it has already passed.

We are the adults who need to mourn old wounds. Children live here and now. If even so, becoming aware of what has been said above, we cannot avoid a tantrum, of course, we will have to accompany them in the most loving, supportive and respectful way possible. With words or silences, caresses, hugs, apologies. If we shout at them, we punish, we demand that they be silent, we cause them even more frustration and therefore more bad to be when they are not understood and the wheel goes on and on. Our look should be to avoid such scenes and experiences . Do not think that they are natural forms of stress release.

It is possible to change the paradigm if we are willing and willing to become truly aware of what happens to us when our children, or children in general, express their bad being or disconnection. If we turn our eyes towards children in times of discomfort and need for emotional expression (I don't want to call it tantrums anymore) we will see that everything looks different.

Let us ask ourselves again:

What happens to me every time my child loses control?

What happens to me when my needs and yours are at stake?

Could my parents satisfy mine?

Did I have in my childhood all the attention, look, respect, acceptance, unconditional love I needed?

Thanks for reading me one more time. I simply need to reach your little hearts and cause some "click" and change of look, belief and attitude.

Yvonne Laborda

My website:


Children's tantrums are not what they seem: how to manage them

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