Temper tantrums are no fun. They are no fun for the people having them. They are no fun for the people dealing with them. They are no fun for the people watching them.
This week, I had planned on tackling a skill that I run into often: dealing with a child's temper tantrum. As I started my research, I kept running into the same issue: children with recurring temper tantrums and anger issues often learn their behavior from adults. Okay, I get it. So "anger begets anger". Parents set the example for the children.
First off, before we get too into this, temper tantrums in preschoolers are normal. Most kids will have one from time to time. It isn't because they are undisciplined or hostile, but because they are not mature enough to know how to properly express and define their anger. However, a grouchy parent doesn't help. I try and do my best as a parent and as a person in general, but on occasion, I am tested. I have been known in the past to get a bit upset when something throws me for a loop. I envy the guy on the Subaru commercial who walks out and sees his kids washing his open car (including scrubbing the vents with toothpaste), stops a moment, and says, "Hey, you missed a spot". Granted, those kids probably shouldn't have been washing that car with the windows open, but flying off the handle (as most people probably would have done) wouldn't have taught them much. There are so many moments, in parenting and life, when taking a second, letting out a breath, and just thinking about things works better than getting upset.
So that is the skill I learned this week. It's a skill many people find challenging. No, not washing the car (although I might do that later), but learning how to stop, breathe, and manage anger. Taming one's temper tantrum.
|Courtesy of angrybirds.wikia.com|
This challenge was a lot of research and reading, unlike some of the challenges from previous weeks, but I found this subject useful for so many different situations.
According to many of the books I read (although I seemed to refer back to this one most) anger is an absolutely normal and healthy emotion. In fact, there is nothing wrong with feeling anger, but what can be concerning is expressing anger in an unhealthy way such as: yelling, sarcasm, dismissal, insults, threats, aggression, intimidation, etc. Biologically, humans react to anger in the same way that we react to fear, our heart rates go up, our neck and muscles get tense. We experience a physiological change. It is meant to protect us, a "fight or flight" reaction (Although wouldn't it be better if it was reversed? Flight before fight?). The emotion is a sign that something is not right. Something needs to change.
Unfortunately, it isn't always easy to avoid expressing anger in a problematic way, but there are ways to do it. As stated above, anger creates anger. The more angry you are to others, the more you will get back. This works the same way for kids. The more you express your anger in an unhealthy way (raising your voice, perhaps, or getting tense), the more likely they will express their anger similarly. It does no one any favors. The best way to deal with anger is to stay calm, address the issue, and find a solution. It can be difficult sometimes.
So, how do you stay calm?
- Relax, everyday for a specified amount of time The book suggested 20 minutes. The more relaxed you are all the time, the farther you are from a temper tantrum. Find a quiet place, sit, and breathe. (By the way, the only time I can do this is after everyone in my house has gone to bed, but I'll try it anyway.)
- Muscle Relaxation. Either through massage (I forced myself to try this, just for you, readers!), or muscle meditation (concentrate on tensing and relaxing specific muscles one at a time).
- Meditation quiets your mind. According to Svitil, it reduces anxiety, stress, and lowers blood pressure. See my friend Panteha's positive meditating experience.
- Just breathing can help as well. Breathing deeply, using the diaphragm sends oxygen through your body.
- Speaking of breathing, Yoga (which I will tackle here in a couple weeks) helps by exercising breathing techniques, improving posture, increasing strength, and releasing tension. Similar to meditation!
- Exercising helps by helping you let go of stress and energy. Plus, for anyone who has seen this movie, they know, "Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy." FYI, it is also a book.
Let's say you haven't been doing any of these things and you feel yourself beginning to have a temper tantrum. What do you do then? According to my book..
|Angry Gollum from Lord of the Rings|
- Repeat coping thoughts.."I won't lose control", "I am calm", something to that effect.
- Slow down the conversation by pausing a few seconds. Some people count to ten. Or take a break from the conversation and come back later. Maybe, go for a walk.
- Take a drink of water.
- Sit down and talk. Do not stand up.
- Imagine what your angry face looks like ("Eek, I'm ugly when I'm mad!").
- Think of a quiet soothing place.
- Imagine how someone who isn't mad would handle the situation.
- Get an anger partner, someone you can call when you are mad and you need to talk it out.
Sometimes, we need more help than a book can give us. There could be reasons people have tantrums that might stem back to childhood or past traumas. In some cases, therapy may be needed.
I discovered some wonderful tools to help me set a positive example for my child and some new ways to deal with and express my own frustration and anger. This week, my preschooler and I had a few moments that tested both of our anger management skills, and by using the above skills, we turned some negative and grouchy moments into positive and educational opportunities.