Originally published in the Lakelands Leader in our advice column the Laudable Life
Q: I love my daughter so much, but she’s a tough cookie. It’s very common during a play date, or when we’re have company over, or when she’s with me and we’re out shopping together, for her to have a full on meltdown. It’s so stressful and embarrassing. The worst times have been when it happens in front of my in-laws. I feel people are watching the scene and judging her and judging me as a parent. I feel like my responses are sometimes too harsh (especially when we are alone), but others are telling me I’m being too lenient. I can’t seem to find that sweet spot in the middle. What am I doing wrong?
A: Know that you are doing the best you can. Maybe you just have a more passionate, high emotion child. The good news is that with some additional strategies things can get much better. Children often throw tantrums because they’re tired, hungry, or frustrated. As they age they’ll learn how to manage their feelings more appropriately. So what can you do in the meantime? You may be expecting this column to give you tips on how to stop a tantrum. But if your strategy is focused on stopping tantrums, your strategy is starting too late in the process. Instead what you want to do is to prevent them. Gail Groboski, LCSW-C, our Senior Young Child and Parenting Clinician, compares tantrums to snowballs, noting it’s easier to stop one from rolling down the hill, than it is to push one back up the mountain. It’s also more beneficial for your child’s development to learn the skills used to avert them. Helping your child recognize, label, and process when they are feeling hungry, tired, frustrated, rushed, and disappointed sets them up for a lifetime of smoother sailing. After all, don’t we all need to have these skills? Ever found yourself barking at one family member when you were actually upset about something else entirely?