Tips On Surviving Your Child's Tantrum

Perry and I have had our fair share of stressors when it comes to raising Winter. She has breath-holding spells (read more about our experience, here), she has already entered into the tantruming phase of her life, and recently, we ended up completely stuck and lost on a bus in the middle of the redwood forest with a very car sick, puking child without cell reception. I know when difficult parenting situations arise, the panic, pressure and chaos can easily take over, and it’s hard to keep your cool whether you are alone or with your partner.

We know from a neuropsychology standpoint that when we are really upset, our amygdala (the “security guard” in our brain that when alerted, sends off the fight, flight or freeze response in our body so that we can react fast to danger or threats) goes off and it directly affects the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and hinders it from working efficiently. The PFC is responsible for regulating our emotions and behaviors to help us make wise choices. So what does this mean? Basically, when your kid is pitching a fit, your brain can’t process the way it should to help you cope with the stress and, consequently, you may end up doing something you regret, like yelling at your partner, getting frustrated with your child or losing your cool.

Below are 5 things you can do in the midst of a tantrum or stressful behavior to survive it:

  1.  Bring Attention to your Jawline: This is always the first thing you should try to do when you find yourself in a demanding situation with your child. It’s very common to experience tension in the jaw area when you’re stressed. Bring awareness to your jaw and ask yourself: 1. Is my jaw relaxed or tight? 2. Is my tongue pressed up against the roof of my mouth? 3. Are my teeth clenched? If you answered yes to any of these questions, it’s an easy fix to relax these body parts. When you bring awareness to the tension in your body, you are sending your brain a message that you are, in fact, still in charge and are capable of remaining clam.
  2.  Take a Deep Breath: Taking a deep breath helps to calm your amygdala to allow you to think, react and remember efficiently. Also, it’s a great way to model to your little one what they should do when they feel upset too. I often say out loud what I am doing and will label when I breath in or out. Sometimes, my daughter will even be so interested in what I am doing, it will stop a tantrum dead in its tracks!
  3. State a Well-Rehearsed Affirmation To Yourself: Before you are in a stressful situation, think about what words of advice you would give yourself when you are having a difficult time with your child. Mine is “I am calm. I am safe.” Another common one is “This too shall pass.” Say this to yourself or out loud over and over to help remind you that the stress you feel is only temporary and not permanent.
  4. Know Your Limits: Sometimes, unfortunately, things can spiral out of control and become very emotionally charged all too quickly. Talk to your partner about something you could both say to each other when you need to step away from the situation to regroup. Also, discuss with your partner beforehand about your expectations so that if one of you asks the other to remove themselves because they can see that the tension is rising, allow them to take the reins without getting upset. When it becomes too much for Perry or me, we say “tap out” which cues the other that we need support and for the other to take the lead for a bit. Often times, we don’t go too far but even hearing that your partner is taking the lead helps you relax and know that it’s going to be okay.
  5. Reflect on How You Handled the Situation: This is an important step in stress management that many people forget to do. In order to learn from and draw conclusion on your experiences, you need to give yourself time to reflect. If the situation involves your partner, talk to them at a later time (once the crisis is over) about what went well, what could have gone better and how you felt during the situation. If you were alone, ask yourself these same questions. You will start to notice patterns and really be able to pinpoint what helps you stay calm the most.

A consistent mindfulness practice has helped me tremendously with my ability to keep my cool during stressful times. Read this article to see how it mindfulness can actually change the way your brain works!

Follow my mindfulness board on Pinterest for more tips + tricks on how you too can live a more mindful life!

Photography by Brittany Renee'