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By: Tammy Sassoon, M.s.ed

I recently got a call from a mother who said that she was at her wits end with her 7-year-old daughter who has been throwing tantrums whenever things don’t work out as she wishes. Her mother said that if someone looks at her daughter the wrong way she cries, if someone says the wrong thing she cries, and she wants her mother's attention all day.

As you can imagine, it wasn’t at all the first call I’ve received of this kind. We have all seen children who struggle
with this.

Let’s explore what this type of child’s mistaken beliefs are that cause them to behave this way, and how we can help them to see things in a more healthy way.

The child’s mistaken belief is that when things don't go her way, the world has come to an end.

Let’s call this girl Rachel. How can Rachel's mother give her daughter effective coping skills, so they can both enjoy home life, even when disappointments come up?

Well, every day there will be things that don't work out for Rachel, as well as for her mother. In fact, that is true for every human being on planet earth!

When things don't work out exactly as we planned, we have two options. But Rachel AND her mother BOTH don't know that yet!

We can either

1  Complain


2  Acknowledge our disappointment, and then
    bounce back

Rachel's mother is making the mistake of complaining when things don't work out as she planned. Rachel senses the negativity.

Last time her mother circled a block to find a parking spot for over 10 minutes, her mother’s face became very intense and her voice got loud. When Rachel's brother left his homework at school, their mother let out a scream that scared the neighbors.

What is Rachel learning from all this?
That it is scary when things don't work out as planned.

If her mother chooses to – she CAN learn (just as any mother can learn) how to go with option 2.

Option 2 has two parts:
First – acknowledge the disappointment.

Say out loud, “It's so hard for me to circle so long for a spot,” or “I'm really frustrated about the homework.” (Don’t skip this part because if you don’t allow your feelings to be expressed, they get trapped, and leak out in unpleasant ways.)

Then move on! Our children must see us being okay with disappointments! Having strong feelings is never a problem. Thinking that something is wrong when you have strong feelings creates aggressive or disruptive behaviors.

How Else Can
Rachel's Mother Help?

When she is up to the helping Rachel with the “moving on” part, she should give a warm, gentle smile, and simply state, “Everyone gets intense feelings sometimes.” Then just wait – she shouldn't try to
push away Rachel’s feelings or her own because she doesn’t want Rachel to think she should be afraid of difficult feelings.

If Rachel is becoming disruptive, her mother should lower her voice, and with a relaxed and confident tone she should let Rachel know that if she needs more time she can relax in a different room.

If Rachel does go to another room, (sometimes kids need help getting there) her mother should let her know that she is there for her if she needs anything. We need to be supportive when our children need it most.

Any parent can learn to replace ineffective strategies with ones that produce results. Remember that in parenting, our goal is to raise healthy children who become healthy adults, NOT to produce immediate results at any cost. If you are only focused on the latter, your relationship with your child will be at risk.