This post may contain some affiliate links for your convenience (which means that, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase after clicking a link I will earn a small commission) Click here to read my full disclosure policy.
The Key to Stopping Tantrums & Creating a Happier Home
Parenting small kids can be maddening. An epic tantrum can derail plans and test every last drop of patience you have. But what if you could drastically reduce the tantrums you have in your home?
Simple changes in how you communicate can truly have massive results.
Children crave affection.
In fact, they crave affection more than food. To get it, sometimes they act out and misbehave because that is super effective at getting our attention.
But how do we respond when they act out, merely seeking our attention? Do we hold them and love them? Or do we snap at them, send them away to time out, and deny them the snuggles they so desperately need?
I was listening to a podcast on a run when I literally stopped in my tracks to write down what I’d just heard. Esther Perrel, a psychotherapist, was talking about communicating without words. Something we do without even thinking about it.
“We spoke with the body for the first 18 months before uttering a word. It is our mother tongue.”
Think about that for a sec: from birth, we are acutely tuned into body language. Kids are SUPER sensitive to what your body is saying. So what are you communicating throughout the day?
Body language is our mother tongue.
We know that yelling is bad. And we feel absolutely terrible when we do it. But our silent actions can be just as loud and damaging as yelling.
We are always rushing around with a list a million miles long. But what are we communicating when we brush off our child that keeps interrupting our rushing about?
I know you’re stressed. And you’re legitimately busy. And some things absolutely need to get done right away. But is anything worth communicating that what is important to our little ones is not important to us?
Are we making eye contact when we talk to our little ones? Are we communicating that we are tuned into their needs?
The affection we show with our body (snuggles, stroking the face or an upset child) and the anger or annoyance we show communicates with our children in their native language. We need to watch what we are saying.
Touch helps an upset child reason and relax.
When a child is having a meltdown, the child is in their brain stem. They’re in fight or flight mode and are not rational or capable of reason.
Touch helps build the connection that helps the child get out of their brain stem and into their frontal lobe.We have to help our child use their frontal lobe to be able to have effective communication.
Make no mistake: I’m not saying a child does not need discipline. Discipline is essential. But so is tremendous affection.
Here are several ways that you can connect with your child and show more affection:
1) Use touch to help calm a meltdown/tantrum
Reducing tantrums will automatically help create a happier home. When a child is having a meltdown use affection to calm your child and bring them from their brainstem (fight or flight) back to the frontal lobe where they can reason.
I have found that three things can usually calm a meltdown in our house:
- holding my child tightly
- stroking their face, arm or back
It’s truly magical. There are very few tantrums that I have encountered that have not been calmed by those 3 things.
If the child needs to get some emotions out, let them get it out before trying this. But once they release their emotions, help them come back to themselves and start reasoning through touch and building connections.
2) Start the day with physical affection
How you start your day sets the tone for everything that follows. How often does a bad morning bleed into a bad day?
Avoid bad mornings (and morning tantrums) by building those connecting first thing in the mornings.
I have a child that has a tendency to wake up in a crabby mood and I find giving her my focus and affection right off the bat helps take the edge off her mood.
3) Use touch as much as possible when giving instructions
Ever give instructions to a child and they just look at you like you are speaking a foreign language?
Try putting a hand on their shoulder or arm, making eye contact, and then giving instructions. This makes it more likely that your kid is engaged in what you are saying and able to follow through with the task
4) Hold hands
This is especially effective with young kids. My girls love to hold my hand. Even if it’s just walking around the house, making this connection creates a calmer, happier home.
And holding hands while walking on a sidewalk, in a store, or crossing a street has the added benefit of keeping your child safe!
5) After any absence, physical affection should be your first response to child
After any absence, make sure physical affection is the first thing your child gets from you. Be it a hug, affectionate pat, or a high five. Couple it with a warm smile and your are communicating with your child that you missed them, you love them, and want to hear about how their day has gone.
After a long day of school, my kids are exhausted and emotional. If I am rushed and forget to show affection, a meltdown is 100% right around the corner. Snuggles help my kids make the transition from school to home.
Touch truly has the power to transform your home
As parents, we ALL fall short. But we can all make small changes that will help to create calmer and more happy homes. As we change the way we communicate and build connections through touch, we can reduce tantrums and create happier homes.
When it comes to small kids, if there is a problem or conflict, snuggles are usually the answer.
You’ve got this, mama!