We were in the middle of a brutal honesty moment. I just spent the last hour figuring out how to deal with toddler tantrums, and my friend, who was visiting me overseas in Okinawa, turned to me and asked, “Do you ever have really angry thoughts in your head?”
I didn’t hesitate for a second to answer her.
“Oh, all the time!”
Relieved by my answer, she swung her head back and laughed out loud, “Oh, good! You were so patient with him, I didn’t know how it was possible. That was crazy!”
Let me rewind this story a bit for you.
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We were touring an Okinawan Castle.
My friend and I gathered up the kids to do some sight-seeing. We were touring the castle, and all of a sudden, my son hopped out of the umbrella stroller and started running like he saw an ice cream cone the size of Texas.
And honestly, I still have no idea what he was doing or where he was headed, but the lightbulb turned on 100 yards into his mad dash from the stroller. Maybe he realized the Texas-sized ice cream was a mirage, but he returned running and screaming like a he saw the Boogie Man.
Kids are a mystery sometimes.
Upon his return, the unveiling started and never stopped.
It was the mother of all temper tantrums. Back-arching. Kicking. Screaming. Red face. Snotty nose. Non-sensical talk. The whole gamut.
Of course, these temper tantrums are always reserved for public display. And of course, you are with a group of people and you’re the only driver with an international driver’s license in a foreign country, so you can’t just jump ship and head straight for home.
It’s like parenting boot camp on steroids.
Mama has a headache.
How temper tantrums make you a better parent.
This is the moment the angry thoughts start circling in your head. The moment where you are considering a course for moms and anger management because you are on the verge of an emotional explosion yourself. But this is also the moment, when you grow, learn and become a better parent. Here’s why.
You get a whole lotta lessons in patience.
“Patience: the ability to accept or tolerate delay, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious.” You get a lot of this. A LOT. A LOTTA LOT.
You learn when to push it and when to let it go.
Parenting is about consistency. But in case you weren’t confused enough, it’s also all about flexibility. Every boundary is meant to flex at some point or another.
And thankfully, being flexible doesn’t make you a permissive parent.
It just means the lightbulb goes on in your head, helping you realize that the middle of an epic temper tantrum is not a teachable moment. That comes later when everyone is calm.
You learn it’s not really personal.
Kids don’t have emotional breakdowns because they are out to get you. They have them because they are human. Because they reach a breaking point. Because they aren’t as mature as we wish, and they need our help to regain a sense of logic.
You learn a higher level of self-control.
This is where you learn not to have a tantrum yourself. This is the hardest part. Because you’re tired and you’re at your limit, and in the moment, it seems easier to respond to the illogical emotions of a tantruming child with yelling and arms and crazy mom.
Unfortunately, I’ve learned the hard way: a child and an adult having simultaneous tantrums is a surefire recipe for disaster. What can I say…I’m mature.
But eventually–and thankfully for everyone else around me–I learned how to resemble some calm on the outside even when my brain is rupturing with anger on the inside.
You learn how to emotion coach.
Emotions are a complete and total foreign language to kids. They need their parents to help them learn how to name emotions, process emotions, and help them move forward.
You learn empathy.
More than anything, you learn to walk a mile in your child’s shoes. Maybe he did see a mirage of an ice cream cone the size of Texas. And honestly, if I would’ve seen it and found out it wasn’t real, I would’ve cried too.
Everything is a big deal to kids. Because they are small in a big, big world, and it’s overwhelming for them.
I stewed with angry thoughts.
The whole time my son was throwing a massive-out-of-control-temper-tantrum-with-everyone-looking, I couldn’t help but think angry thoughts.
I desperately wanted to scream, “Why are you doing this to me?! Stop crying and acting crazy! You are RIDICULOUS!”
I desperately wanted him to suddenly fall asleep for a 3-hour nap.
I desperately wanted to suddenly fall asleep myself, preferably after having a very large glass of wine.
And yes, I even had angry thoughts well beyond those written above. But that’s a story for another day.
Here’s the point.
As I sat on a bench in an Okinawan historical site, looking like a typical American mom with a wild child, I tried my best to coach my son through his tantrum.
And breath-by-breath, he started to calm down. Granted, it took a while. It wasn’t perfect, but we reached a place of calm and understanding.
Parenting through the temper tantrums is hard.
I never in a million years envision myself having to hold it together so much, and I never envisioned being tested and tested and tested. Kids will push you further to the edge of the cliff than you ever imagined.
But you grow, you gain confidence, and most importantly, you learn how to step back from the ledge even when it’s hard.
I wasn’t always the calm around my kids. I’m not a perfect parent, and I’ve had my share of yelling and angry mom days. But ultimately, I knew that wasn’t the parent I wanted to be.
I’m so thankful for my friend Amanda and her course Mama’s Anger Management. It gave me the tools I needed to survive the hardest parenting days. You can click the image below to learn more!
More posts on parenting.
- How to Make Kids Listen: 30 Genius Resources to Get You Started
- How to Say “No” to a Toddler (Without Actually Saying “No”)
- 3 Things Every Parent of a Strong Willed Toddler Should Know
- 7 Genius Hacks to Stop a Tantrum
Bonus: Free printable tantrum checklist.
This post comes with a free printable tantrum checklist. If you are looking for a few ways to help your child through a tantrum, this printable is an easy way to remember in a pinch!
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- Print. Any paper will do the trick, but card stock would be ideal.
- Place it on your refrigerator. Use it as a quick reference and don’t forget a thing!
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