Having a child who always wants their way and where it seems that every request is met with defiance and a meltdown is really challenging. I know it can feel like your child is doing things intentionally to push your buttons and “wind you up”.
When my daughter was younger, before I understood what was really happening, I felt guilty, as if my daughter’s meltdowns were a direct link to my parenting. I felt embarrassed, judged by my family and friends and angry that I had to deal with tantrums on an everyday basis. Truthfully, I felt out of control.
The thing I didn’t realise at the time was my daughter was feeling exactly same things that I was. She didn’t want to be having a tantrum and she was feeling just as out of control…
We are so used to seeing behaviour as ‘good’ or ‘bad’
But behaviour in our children is neither ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ All of our child’s behaviour is an expression of their thoughts, feelings and unmet needs.
The ability to calm down, practice self-control and communicate their needs calmly only matures through social and emotional development. It is these skills that enable your child to stop having tantrums.
Your child doesn’t NEED motivation or a deterrent to change her ways, she already WANTS to calm down, She WANTS to stop crying and tantruming, but she doesn’t think she can.
Imagine how frustrating that is for your child to WANT to do what you ask but feels unable to. They actually want the same thing, to feel calm, but they think it’s impossible for them. That’s downright scary!
(Often, it’s these children that are told off, punished and blamed, no wonder they give up trying to calm down!)
So, what does your child need to calm down?
They need you to support them to get their needs met. In fact, the root cause of tantrums are unmet needs.
This is what sets Language of Listening® apart from other parenting models. It is a need based; success-based parenting model.
We see that all behaviour is meeting a NEED, it might not be in a way that you currently like! By understanding the need behind the behaviour, your role as parent changes to support your child to get their needs met in a way you DO like. And then you coach your child to bring out her greatness by STRENGTH training. Your child learns to control her own behaviour.
Let’s look at what actually happens during a tantrum
Tantrums typically start when your child wants something or doesn’t want something and feels like they can’t make you understand. – This is what we call an escalation in behaviour, if your child can’t get you to understand, no wonder they get louder and louder and more frustrated. That’s why the first step in Language of Listening® Say What You See, gives you the tools to often stop tantrums in their tracks.
The reason this step is so vital is that children think that what they want and like is ‘who they are’, so if they think you don’t understand them, they think you don’t ‘get’ them, they think you don’t care about them. Little surprise that this is what makes them feel powerless and disconnected.
So, what does your child do in reaction to feeling disconnected? They cry and fuss and feel sad. (hello to whining!)
If their need for connection does not get met, children feel powerlessness. When your child feels powerless what sure way do they know to get their need for power met? They shout, demand, scream, throw things, stamp their feet, slam doors. (BTW Look out for what you do to get your need for power met!)
When they either run out of steam or the need for power gets met your child often starts whimpering or crying and comes looking for cuddles and connection. (Language of Listening® gives you the tools to help them met their need for power in a way you do like)
Throughout the duration of a tantrum the need for connection and power is high. Your response to your child either escalates or de-escalates the tantrum, your reactions are either supporting your child to get their needs met in a way that you like, or you’re adding to their feelings of disconnection and powerlessness.
Understanding what is really going on when your child is having a tantrum, you realise that the ways we’re often told to respond just prolongs the tantrums and doesn’t teach our child how to get their needs met in a way that you do like. – no wonder we feel like we’re dealing with them every. single. day.
What you can do to stop the tantrums.
In focusing your attention in supporting your child to meet their needs within your boundary helps you gain willing cooperation and helps your child gain problem-solving skills and self-control.
That’s why the 3-steps of Language of Listening® are so perfect to give you and your child what they need to better deal with tantrums.
The purpose of Say What You See® is validation. It’s to meet your child’s need for CONNECTION. It also helps you understand your child’s perspective and it’s here where they start to open up to your guidance. The Say What You See® step is so important, you can often see your child move from “out-of-control” behaviour straight into sadness, acceptance of your boundary and right into your arms for comfort. (You can get hundreds of examples of SWYS here.)
When your child feels heard and validated, their need for connection is met and they are primed to want to listen to you and you are primed to offer loving guidance and support.
The purpose of offering things the child CAN DO is to help the child find a way to meet their own need for experience, power or connection.
The purpose of pointing out your child’s STRENGTHs is to help your child see their greatness and gain confidence in their abilities.
As a parent shifting from fixing and controlling to understanding is not easy. It can go against our instincts about what we think we SHOULD be doing.
However, your true role is to help your child meet their needs and feel more in control of themselves and in turn manage their own behaviour.
So, your role as a parent is to prove to them that they can.
When it comes to all behaviours we don’t like, tantrums, hitting, kicking biting… our kids always want the right things (meeting their needs).
It’s your child not seeing the possibility of a better way that trips them up. They just don’t see another how… Proving to them that it’s possible changes their actions and puts them back in charge of themselves.
That’s where YOU come in. To become their coach, rooting for them, supporting them and watching them transform before your eyes.
One simple shift helps kids learn how to calm themselves down, so you no longer need to do it for them.
Instead of focusing your attention on the fact your child had a tantrum, by telling them off, ignoring them or bribing them to not have a tantrum in the first place. All proof to your child that they CAN’T calm down.
I want you to focus your attention to the fact that your child DID calm down.
Yes, it might have been a twenty-minute scream fest this time. BUT your child is learning what it is to calm down. And with your coaching, step by step you’ll watch your child going from a full-blown tantrum, to stomping their feet, to huffing and puffing to being able to control their behaviour.
We are so used to judging behaviour as either right or wrong. By learning to look at behaviour with fresh eyes, you will see these small steps move you all in the right direction and that actually your child is beginning to practice self-control and what she needs to calm down. She is DOING IT. She knows what she needs to calm herself and handle her emotions.
How validating for your child to hear that you “get” how hard it is for them to calm down. That you know they are trying their hardest and that you are noticing their STRENGTHs and successes.
Here are a few examples from the Language of Listening® framework to get you going:
Say What You See® “You’re so upset, you really want to go to the park, only the park will do! CAN DO “There must be something you CAN DO to have fun and play at home ” Wait for your child to find a solution or to calm down and then point out her STRENGTH “AND you calm down. You did it! That shows self-control.”
Say What You See® “You know just what you needed to calm down, you got all upset, you stomped your feet to show me just how mad you are.” (stomping her feet is meeting her need for power and helping her get her frustrations out)
Say What You See + CAN DO + STRENGTH “You’re stomping your feet to show me just how mad you are, you know how to get all your mad out. You know what you need and keep everyone safe.”
Say What You See + CAN DO + STRENGTH “You are SO mad right now! You love playing with the cat AND grabbing her like that is NOT OK with me. Hmm must be something you CAN DO to be playful.” Then wait for your child to calm down or find a solution, you can then point out her STRENGTHs. “Looks like you found a way to make it work and you calmed down, that shows what a problem solver you are.”
Say What You See + CAN DO “You are so mad at your brother, AND hitting hurts. There must be another way for you to tell him.”
Say what You See = CAN DO “You are so frustrated! You want cake, AND there’s no cake today. You can be upset AND kicking me is NOT OK with me. You can kick this pillow.”
Do you want more examples of just what to say to gain willing cooperation? Check out my free eCourse. I’ll take you from wild kids to listeners’ in a few days. Click here to sign up
Why this works
Your child’s behaviour is guided by her STRENGTHs, (the ones you just pointed out to her) This is what impacts future behaviour and shows your child that she CAN calm down and manage her self-control and get her needs met within your boundaries.
How you respond to tantrums not only supports your child to get their needs met in a way that you DO like, it also shows her that you have faith in her abilities, you believe in her and you are there to support her.
You’re setting yourself up for years of tantrum trouble if they end with you child thinking of herself as ruining the day and that her behaviour is naughty or unacceptable. That becomes her inner voice and her future actions are based on that belief about herself.
When you learn how to point out your child’s STRENGTHs, then you’re setting your child up for success. She gets to have the inner voice of “Yes, I did calm down, I did it! I felt all yucky, I behaved in a way I didn’t like, but I’m still loveable. I do know what I need to calm down and get my emotions out.”
The Language of Listening® framework gives you the tools to coach your child to find their own solutions and control their own behaviour within your boundaries. It’s the key to getting you the behaviour you like, waving goodbye to the tantrums while bringing out your child’s inner strength and self-control. How much easier and not to mention more enjoyable is that?