Did you ever find yourself at the center of a meltdown? I mean, a DEFCON 1 level, all out nuclear tantrum in the middle of a public place in front of people you know because you told your child that they couldn’t have something? I mean, you might have only been there because you ran out of milk and thought it would be a nice gesture to your wife if you took one of the kids off her hands for a little while, and then they decided to have a nice public stop-and-stare level freak out?. If the answer is yes, then you’re in the right place and with the right company.
As a father of five, I’ve seen more than my fair share of tantrums. Children are inherently emotional, which makes identifying the root causes of public outbursts that much more difficult. Often, you can attribute such actions to the mood of the child: if they are tired, sick or feeling slighted by earlier interactions, they are already primed to explode in a fit of emotional rage. Other times the causes will not be so obvious.
Occasionally kids will go off for seemingly no apparent reason. There are times that you’ll swear that your kid has gone insane or that they are possessed by some sort of evil entity. Being the little sponges that they are, they soak up information at an astonishing rate, yet struggle to process all of it. All of this learning with such an underdeveloped psyche can overload their sensitive little nervous system, which leads to feelings of panic and anxiety that manifest in the form of emotional overload.
Being told “no” (which is this father’s favorite word by the way), is another trigger point for a lot of kids. Their young minds struggle to process the concept of moderation, and their nascent impulsiveness will demand that they get what the want, when they want it. The more mature the child is, the better they will understand the situation and resolving it will be that mush easier. It will be far more difficult to reason with a young child, as their basis for rational thought is still in its infancy.
Children’s behaviors can be summarized by levels of attention. If a child experiences an environment where they do not receive an adequate amount of attention, they will skew their behaviors to maximize the attention they receive, whether it is good or bad.
I make it a point every day to seek out each of my children individually and ask them how their day was. It’s a daily reminder to reinforce the notion that they are valued and respected and what they experience is important to me. Being their confidant and sounding board for all of their prepubescent troubles not only helps put them at ease, but helps me better understand what issues they might be going through.
It’s our duty to both understand and nurture the emotional well-being of our children. By being closely involved with my children, I have learned to read their emotional states, which provides me invaluable insight in times of stress for them. Ninety-nine percent of minor issues are able to be talked out and mitigated before any real problems manifest.
Parents will have different styles of dealing with, shall we say, ‘public displays of childhood emotional expression’. You might find yourself drawing the proverbial ‘line in the sand’ or you might be one to cave to the immediate demands in order to save face in public. See if you identify with one of these categories:
The Negotiator is a suave and shrewd tactician, who utilizes whatever leverage they have to come to a mutual understanding that diffuses the situation. This style emphasizes smart planning and future leverages that will aid them in future incidents. Negotiating is handled intelligently and with purpose and is not to be confused with the Pushover.
The Enforcer takes no crap, not now, not ever. Discipline is the name of the game and you had better believe that the Enforcer will not stand down in any situation, regardless of how bad the incident gets. The situation is a game of short term pain for long term gain. This strategy is best played if paired with a Negotiator (think good cop/bad cop).
The Pushover gives in to whatever the child wants. In this scenario, the child rules the roost, commanding the parent to do their bidding. The Pushover puts their “perfect” child up on a pedestal and basically allows them free reign to do as the please, all the while making apologies instead of progress. One would probably refer to these kid as brats.
The Denier acts as if nothing is wrong and completely ignores the tantrum, albeit for the wrong reasons. The Denier is unattached, viewing their offspring as little more than financial parasites, and has learned to tune out the sounds of juvenile mayhem. You may even see them carry on a conversation and not break stride when the child goes off. The Denier is even worse than the Pushover due to their total disregard for the situation.
It’s not a matter of if, but when, your child will erupt into an inappropriate outburst, especially if they are very young. Even the most well adjusted and behaved child will occasionally not feel like themselves and will lash out for reasons unknown to them. With age comes maturity, and as children learn to deal with what is really bothering them, the occurrences will become less and less prevalent
Until that time comes when a child can manage their emotions, you must decide the best course of action for dealing with their emotive episodes. Make sure to take the approach best tailored to their personality and your demeanor, as anything else will be construed as less than authentic and will negatively affect the family dynamic. The more respect the child has for you, the less problematic resolutions will be, and your overall relationship will benefit. As a child’s leader and mentor, it is your solemn duty to ensure that they are raised in the most positive, effective and proper manner.