‘Tantrums are the result of accumulated frustration in the system and often have very little to do with the incident that preceded it.’ – Bridgett Miller
As we hunker down in our homes, our frustration is going to rise. Our patience will be tested, and if we are to get through the coming weeks without dumping our frustration onto our children, we need to understand a little about what’s going on emotionally inside of ourselves.
When you feel yourself being triggered by the behaviour of your child, know that it is more about how you’re feeling than what they are doing. Yes, they will do and say things that add to your frustration BUT they are not at the root of your frustration. You are not a ‘bad’ parent, you’re a frustrated human who is trying to navigate the unknown in a particularly stressful time. They are not ‘bad’ children, they’re frustrated immature beings who need your calm guidance and direction now more than ever.
What you most need to know is that being frustrated is part of the human condition. Each and every day we have a lot on our plates and feeling frustrated is not only expected, it’s completely natural. To add to that, we’ve never been faced with global circumstances like these before and we’re out of our everyday routine. Many of us are miles apart from those we care about and we don’t know how long we’re going to have to live like this. We have every right to be frustrated and our frustration needs to move…but not onto our children.
Here’s what you can do in order to BE more present when you’re faced with a child who is being ‘difficult’:
- RECOGNISE that you’re full of frustration and so are your children. It’s normal.
- SPEAK to whatever has frustrated you in that moment by describing it rather than blaming your child for it. ‘Screaming really hurts my ears’ or ‘Taking your brother’s train away really upsets him’. Doing this will put a little pause on immediately overreacting. It will also give you a little time for perspective. (Honestly, whatever they’re just done isn’t that big of a deal in the big picture.)
- ACKNOWLEDGE your child’s frustration or upset with a few words. “Wow, you’re really mad with your sister right now.”
- MANAGE the immediate situation as best you can without trying to teach your child a lesson in that moment. You can always talk to them about what they have done that wasn’t okay later on when you’ve all calmed down and they’re open to hearing you.
- REDIRECT your child where possible and convey that the CONNECTION you have with them is still intact. “Let’s go and get a cloth to clean up that juice so that we can set up the Lego there afterwards.”
Is this the complete answer to dealing with all your and your children’s frustration?
No, but becoming aware of what’s going on lays the path ahead for responding rather than reacting. We’ll have plenty more opportunity to discuss this in the coming days. That’s the upside of having all this extra time.
Take care of yourself and of each other.