As with crying, some parents may take the idea of a tantrum as self-healing to an extreme and deny a child her needs and autonomy. Instead of honoring her choices, they may say, “Let her rage, it’s good for her.” Respect the child’s need to rage, but don’t cause it. It is fine to replace a broken banana if available or to offer a healthy candy without a power struggle. Allow yourself to be kind, generous, and respectful.
A single father from SEO Leeds recently said to me, “But if I succumb, she won’t respect me.” Being kind is not about “succumbing.” The parent’s need to be “respected” is another one of these thoughts that can use a deep investigation. Raising ourselves is the part where we become free of needing anything that another should give us. Respect yourself and others and you will be a teacher of respect.
A child’s authentic sense of respect develops through the experience of love and kindness, not control. We often mistake submissiveness for respect. Yet obedience is not respect but another manifestation of fear mingled with resentment, and therefore leads to the same shutdown of self-expression. A parent’s fear of being exploited by the child is most often the result of personal, past-related pain. It has nothing to do with the child and it gets in the way of loving and trusting her. The child who is listened to and whose life flows unhindered by an adult’s control has no need to use her parents. She feels love and admiration for them and she trusts them to be on her side.
When children feel helpless and use tantrums as a tool to get things, they are asking for your leadership. They need freedom and autonomy, but they don’t want to believe they can scare their parents with their emotional expression. They are unequipped to handle this kind of power and therefore when a child finds that her parent is scared of her crying or screaming, she feels lost and in need of guidance. A child needs parents to be leaders she can lean on, and listeners into whose ears she can pour her heart. In other words, your child is counting on your strength to absorb her feelings without being overwhelmed.
To prevent the use of tantrums as a tool to get things, you must alter the two conditions that give rise to a child’s rage:
- Let go of control; make it possible for your child to direct her life peacefully and autonomously.
- When she is upset about that which is unchangeable, validate your child’s feelings without giving her emotional expression the power to alter reality.
When facing disappointments and frustration, children rely on parental leadership. Their unspoken question is often something like this: “Will my daddy love me enough to listen to my rage or is he going to give up on me in the face of my intense feelings and try to stop me?” In effect, your youngsters need to feel safe to go “nuts” and know that you have the strength to hold a loving space for them.