Childrearing

Keep Calm & Carry On: Why Silence Is My Best Weapon Against Tantrums

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Now, there was a time when my first response would have been to lay down the law. I think it’s natural for a parent to get a little angry when their child throws a glass of liquid at them. I would consider that a reasonable response. Except after years with my daughter, I know that asserting dominance is like a big competition to her. The louder my voice gets, the louder her voice gets. The sharper my words, the sharper her words. When my daughter wants to show how strong and in charge she is, she speaks loudly and forcefully, yelling things like, “I told you what I wanted,” and “You’ll never be in charge of me again!”

And really, every fiber of my being wants to look at her and demand, “I am in charge and you will listen to me.” It takes all my self-control to sit down quietly on her bed and say that I’m very disappointed in her behavior.

I don’t say much else. I don’t argue with her. I sit and let her yell or growl even. I wait as she sorts through her emotions and begins to come down off of her anger-induced high. I’ve told her many times now, “Yelling the loudest doesn’t make you the strongest.” I think in a couple more years she’ll believe me.

I don’t ignore my daughter’s tantrums, though I know that it’s a tactic that works for many parents. I just sit quietly through them, watching her and letting her know that I don’t approve of screaming or hitting. In this particular case, I waited until she was done and then I explained again why we don’t have lemonade at bedtime. I asked her to clean up the mess she had made while I got her another glass of water. Then we climbed into bed for bedtime stories like any other night.

Being a mother has taught me more about controlling my emotions than any other experience in my life. It’s not easy to sit silently while your little girl tells you that she won’t ever love you ever again. In those moments I want to pick up her and tell her that she has absolutely no choice, she’s stuck with me and she’ll just have to love me. I want to hold her still in my arms when she’s raging and working through her frustration. But sitting still and listening is the best tool I have.

I can only hope that one day she’s going to vehemently disagree with me about something and she’ll sit down very calmly and say, “Mom, I’m really disappointed that you feel that way.”

(Photo: gbphoto21/Shutterstock)

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