What WON’T Help a Temper Tantrum

Your child is LOSING it. You are in a public place and you are triggered. You’re embarrassed, you feel the stares of those around you, and you’re exhausted of this….again! Stay calm. Reflective Listening is the only thing that will work, right now.

Reflective Listening

Here’s what will not work:

  • Reasoning with her
  • Yelling and sharp words
  • Repeating and nagging
  • Setting up rewards if she stops crying
  • Setting up punishments – this simply creates more anxiety
  • Distraction (once you stop distracting, the feelings will return – and with greater power)

Lastly, Reflective Listening is not a time to teach. Resist thinking that the calm after the storm is a teachable moment. What IS Reflective Listening? Tune in to the next blog.


Magic Bullet for Children: Special Time

You love your children!  It might, likely, be the most deeply felt emotion you have ever experienced.  TIME is always in short supply.  Both parents and children long for more.  No one is really at fault for this short supply of easy time.  You may find yourself saddled with enough responsibility to occupy THREE parents.  Because of this, it is more important than ever that you carve out Special Time, with each of your children. It is a simple, yet powerful.

Special Time

And the Magic Bullet? Special Time is really a form of listening, because your child’s play and games and silliness becomes her vehicle for telling you about her perceptions.  It can help cure Sibling Rivalry, behavioral problems, temper tantrums, and acting out in public. And, it teaches you about your child. Here are some ideas to make it perfect for your child (and you!):

  • Allow zero interruptions: no telephone, no errands, and no chores – be with your child
  • Set aside a short, pre-defined period of time, that you share with your child beforehand ( feel free to use a timer to show how you will protect this time )
  • Call it Special Time. Tell your child how much you are looking forward to it, before hand. Name it Special Time
  • Put your child in charge of the game. Get down on the floor with her and be willing to do whatever she wants. Follow her lead
  • Show enjoyment and glee
  • Use a lot of smiling and eye contact (even if it isn’t reciprocated, she’ll feel it)
  • Expect new games and new communication – embrace the story that she is creating

Try very hard to let your child direct – resist the temptation to teach how it might be done better (unless she is being outright unsafe). Our parents were working too hard and under too many pressures to play this way when we were children and it might feel odd and uncomfortable to play like this. But, the more you do it, the easier it will become. And the Magic Bullet? You will get to know your child on her terms, with her interests, with her sense of humor, and you will quickly find that she delights in this new found power.

Special Time is truly a Magic Bullet. This kind of Special Time will teach you how to be a good friend, a great listener and will teach your child that you really love her, just the way that she is.

Magic Bullet for Children: Reflective Listening

You love your child!  But the whining and the tantrums – ug! Because time is in short supply, you hurry your child along through tears, tantrums, and forcing them past the whining-for-something stage. This is not what is best for your child – and it might make your child even MORE whiney and create even more tears. Next temper tantrum, try some Reflective Listening!  It is a simple, yet powerful. Reflective Listening

When your child gets terribly upset, you don’t have to agree. You don’t have to convince. In fact, all you really have to do is to … listen. What does Reflective Listening look like?

  • Naming the feeling (even if you are wrong)
  • Caring about the child and his feeling
  • Your ability to hear more about that feeling

In fact, you may find that listening to a child’s tears, without putting demands on him to pull himself together, actually takes less time and is actually much easier and more rewarding than trying to control, distract, or force polite behaviors upon him.  When the tantrum begins, listen, staying near. “Tell me more,” “That sounds scary,” “I’m sorry that happened that way. ” Don’t say too much, however, or you’ll be dominating the interaction vs. listening. Most importantly, resist the temptation to use this as a teachable moment. Don’t correct his feelings.  When a child has stormed or cried the feelings through, he will begin to notice you and his surroundings again, and will generally feel deeply relieved and refreshed.  Soft smiles or laughter might even follow a stormy cry, indicating that your child might be able to think reasonably.  But, now is not the time to tell him what he did wrong. The magic bullet? He will feel deeply loved when you have continued to show that you care through his worst feelings. And later, he might even tell you what he did wrong.

Being able to show true and scary feelings (and having the parent respect those feelings) will improve a child’s perspective and confidence. You may start to notice positive changes in his behavior, almost immediately, once the tantrum is over. This kind of Reflective Listening is, at first, extremely difficult for almost all parents!  But, it is worth it. And will teach you how to be a good friend, a great parent, and teach your child that you really love him, prickly thorns and all.