Our children all go through times when they experience difficulty understanding the way they feel and expressing it to the world around them. We may witness this as crankiness, whining, tantrums, attitude, or backtalk. When our children behave this way, we may have no idea why they are acting out and can feel helpless as to how to help them through. Our own frustration, irritation, and even anger can be triggered and next thing we know, we aren’t helping the situation and may even in fact become part of the problem.
I have witnessed so many parents yell at their child while they are having a tantrum or acting out. I completely understand where this comes from. That sense of helplessness and frustration when you cannot help someone you love and care about to feel better can be overwhelming. Before you know it, rationality goes out the window and anxiety takes over. The end result though is a child who is now faced with their parents’ anxiety and frustration on top of their own original feelings of upset. The situation becomes even further from resolution, anxiety increasing confusion and frustration.
Early on with my own son I had a couple of experiences where I became overwhelmed and at a loss for what my son needed. I quickly realized that allowing my anxiety to get the best of me was not an effective parenting tool and sought out the things that would work for my child. Rather quickly I learned the power of physical connection. I learned that when my son was displaying these signs of difficulty like whining or a tantrum, that what he was really asking for was love and connection. He was asking for me to stop and hold him and let him know that he had my support as he worked whatever it is he was going through out. I remember holding him tightly in my arms and visualizing myself pour my love into him, rocking him, and letting him know I had him. It was my way of letting him know that he could lose it and I, his mother, would not only continue to love him, but would also keep him safe and secure in a space where he could find his own way.
As my son has gotten older, the way in which he acts out frustration has changed, but what he needs from me has not. When he is struggling and maybe talking back to me or whining, I give him he space to work through it by letting him know what he is doing and giving him the chance to self correct. If that does not work I fold him into my arms and give him my love. I can honestly tell you that it works every time. I can feel the relief wash over him as his body physically relaxes. With one small gesture of physical contact, he is given a safe space to let go and simply be. No pressure, no expectations, and no consequences; simply love.
I know that every child is different and therefore every child will need something different, but it all comes down to finding a way to communicate love to our children in these inconsolable moments. Taking the time to find out what works is a treasure for both us as parents, and for our children. These moments are going to happen. Our children are going to get frustrated and act out, and we have this beautiful opportunity to connect through love and show our kids that we have their backs.