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Ways to Avoid a Mommy Tantrum

It’s been one of those days.  Your eight-year-old is mad and pouting about not getting her way, your five-year-old is having a screaming tantrum at his younger brother for touching his toys without his permission, and your three-year-old is loudly uttering words (and gibberish) of objection at his older brother.  Three kids, all upset, and then there’s you.  How do you keep from throwing a tantrum of your own when you’re surrounded by all this anger and stress?  Here’s a step-by-step tutorial on avoiding a mommy tantrum.

First, you need an immediate end to all the yelling.  Separate the kids and tell them that they need to sit quietly in their own rooms and think about their behavior.

In your now quiet but still conflict laden household, you can close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, acknowledge your own feelings of anger and frustration, and work to decompress.  For example, you may think, “I’m feeling angry at the kids because they are behaving badly today.  They’re off their rhythm because Grandma’s sick, they’re worried about her, and they’re off school to be with her and that’s got them off their schedule.  I understand how difficult this must be for them, but they must understand that while being upset is understandable, that doesn’t make acting upsetting acceptable.”  As you pause in the quiet of your sulking family, you can seek to understand why your kids are behaving the way they are.  By exhibiting this understanding, you will become less angry with your kids.   Your own decompression will thus have begun.

Next, do something that relaxes you.  Light a scented candle, play slow and melodic music, or curl up in a warm blanket on the sofa for a few minutes.  Think about happy things like your upcoming birthday party or your niece’s graduation a few months ago.  When you are done with this step, you should be decompressed and able to handle your kids with a calm perspective of your own.

Next, meet with each of your kids, one-on-one.  Visit each child in his/her room.  Tell each child that you love him/her and are proud of the way s/he usually chooses to behave.  Ask them what is happening in his/her world that has caused him/her to behave as s/he did.  Then, listen to what each child has to say.  Ask probing questions.  (How did it make you feel when your brother did that?  Was your brother’s behavior reasonable or unreasonable?  What would you have done if you were in his shoes?)  Give your kids a chance to talk through why they feel upset, and then help them see things from the perspectives of others.  (Note:  your three-year-old may not be fully able to grasp this, but you should persist, as you are laying the foundation for later conversations that he will then be old enough to understand fully.)  As you are wrapping up your one-on-one conversations, tell your kids what you expect of them going forward.  For example, you may say, “I know you are feeling upset about a bunch of things that are happening today, as we all are, but for us to move forward ok, we need things to be calm.  OK?  Will you help me today by being calm, please?”

Then, bring all three kids together, praise them for agreeing to move forward agreeably, and set a plan for the rest of the day.  For example, you may say, “Thank you for your agreeing to be calm today.  We’ve agreed to be focused on what’s best for Grandma today.  So, in a spirit of peace and harmony, we will go to the hospital in about a half hour.  We will spend most of the time in the hospital’s family room, but we will get to visit Grandma’s room from time to time.  There is not a play room at the hospital, so you will need to take a few quiet toys or books with you when we go to the hospital.  I’ll pack some healthy snacks to tide us over until dinnertime.  After dinner, we will come home, but Daddy will stay at the hospital with Grandma.  I know you would like Daddy home tonight, but he needs to be at the hospital right now.  After all, Grandma is Daddy’s mom.  I am grateful to each of you for understanding.  I am so lucky to have you as my kids.  Do any of you have anything you’d like to say before we each get ready to go to the hospital?”

By handling things in this manner, you will have averted a mommy tantrum and prevented subsequent opportunities for mommy tantrums throughout the day.

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