We all know our little angels can suddenly fire up a storm. We also know, even though we act like we know how to handle it, we usually cross our fingers and hope for the best that our discipline methods work. Wouldn’t you want to know what causes these tantrums so you can approach your child in the right way!
Douglas Fields, senior investigator at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland and the author of Why We Snap, says that our children’s anger is natural and a necessary physiological response which stems from our ancestors.
The 9 triggers that cause these emotional responses:
1) Life-or-death situations
5) Significant Other
6) Order in Society
7) Lack of Resources
9) Being stopped (prevented from taking action)
These triggers are what cause explosive human behavior. The most frequent trigger for children is number nine, Being Stopped. Like when you tell them to stop doing those annoying things every 30 seconds. Or, saying “no” too often.
Here are 5 ways to approach the nine tantrum triggers:
1) Don't try to stop it before it starts
Since “Being Stopped” is one of their triggers we may tend to think that preventing things from starting is the way to go. However, Dr. Fields says, “I think it’s helpful for parents to realize that there’s no point in appealing to them to stop being angry — you’re appealing to a part of the brain that’s not developed.” “Another part of the brain is raging and taking control of all the behavior right now. What you have to do is wait it out, they have to calm down, and once they will calm down, then you can begin to intervene and to help them solve the problem.” This means you have to let your child go through their emotions before you start explaining why what they are doing is wrong. This is because your children won’t be able to reason while they are emotional.
2) Teach Your Child It’s Okay To Be Angry
Instead of telling your kids why they shouldn’t be angry, help them explore why they are angry. Talking through situations will help your children understand that it is okay to have such emotions. Once you have established the why, show your children what they can do to not end up angry again. This means explain what caused the situation and why their reaction was not helpful. In fact, getting your kids in touch with those angry feelings early and often, can help them become more self-managed as teenagers.
3) Show Your Children You Got Their Back
Since the brain continues to develop, environmental factors can help us reshape our responses. Showing your children that you support them and that you got their back can allow them to have more confidence at times of distress. Allowing them to better regulate their self-control. As parents, showing your children that it is okay to fail, guiding them through a new experience, and helping them solve a problem they struggled with are just a few examples of how you can show your children you got their back. Showing your children you can act as one of their reliable support systems will be very useful for when your children become teenagers. Therefore, build this into your parenting as early and as often as you can.
4) Build Child's Self Control Under Stress
Building self-control helps children make the right decisions and respond to stressful situations in a more positive way. Dr. Fields touches on the fact that so many of the nine triggers can be prevented by your child learning how to maintain their composure under stressful situations. A common way to learn this skill is through healthy competition, like sports. He says “Fundamentally, one of the greatest benefits of sports is self-control under stress.” According to him, parents should take advantage of that since throwing a tantrum doesn’t solve anything in sports. Because of this, playing sports can illustrate clear examples they can understand, ultimately helping improve your children’s self-control.
5) Look for Patterns of Aggression
Aggressive behavior can diminish your children’s development of judgement and the ability to express themselves. Dr. Fields says that when it comes to aggression amongst girls and boys, “there’s a huge difference, so parents need to be aware of that, and look for the different kinds of aggression. One example is that women and girls tend to self-harm. Girls tend to turn the violence on themselves”. Boys tend to show their aggression physically on objects or others. Understanding how your children’s gender plays a role in the type aggression they show allows you to be more cognizant of the tell-tale signs of their triggers. To overcome aggressive behavior start encouraging and rewarding them to use their words instead. When you notice they handled a difficult situation without resorting to violence, recognize it and praise their behavior for handling the stress so well. You can learn more details about the differences between two genders and their aggression at Dr. Fields’ book Why We Snap.
As human beings we all have these nine triggers. Tantrums are normal. Don’t be worried that you’re doing something wrong. Now that you know these nine triggers and potential approaches to resolve them, you’ll be better prepared as a parent. Though, it might not come naturally to use these five approaches at first, over time you will build the ability to respond accordingly. Repetition is key. As adults, we don’t throw tantrums like our children, it is important to understand the why behind it and use it to better handle the next toy shopping crisis at the mall.