Handling tantrums | Raising Joy respectfully

I normally use a general word for the anger fits which Joy displays at the slightest trigger – tantrums. Its a useful word when I cannot gather the energy to think through them, or explain them. I often wondered if there is any kind of centre or helpline for toddlers beyond parental control, because it’s been happening very, very often for us, like every single day, sometimes, a few times in a day. As a result, I say “no!” a lot to her and she me.

The older folks at home snigger at me and shake their head. “This is no way to bring up a child” they say, barely out of earshot.  Some friends openly think that I am a pushover. “You give in too much to her”, “you obviously spoil her already”.  When we’re out, people stare and make nasty comments. “Don’t bring your child out if you don’t know how to control her“.  I didn’t ask, but the solutions they offered ranges from “don’t let her cry for so long, just give her what she wants to stop her crying first” to “you can talk to her, can’t you? she can learn, can’t she? reason with her!“. Oh, the judgements, social embarrassment and solutions people think of.

It is obvious to me that all of the above  will not work for us but this is where I am lacking in experience – I cannot find any examples from my childhood on how I can get a child to behave, without resorting to beatings and scoldings. I tried smacking her butt. She retaliates by smacking back because I have just shown her that “its ok to hit people when they don’t do what you want” and “its ok to hit people when you are angry”, although my beatings are never done out of anger. I can really shout very loudly because of the vocal training and sometimes, so much frustration builds up inside me that I shout at her uncontrollably. And, as expected, she shouts back, because I have just shown her an example of how shouting works. If it scared her before, she could try and use it to scare me, so that I back off. In some ways, I prefer that she fights back when “attacked”. The challenge is in teaching her to fight back or react to these attacks in the right way.

Judging from her character, if I go on smacking and shouting at her, she and I may not be on speaking terms by the time she reaches her pre-teen years. That defeats my greater purpose. I want to be her home ground, someone she thinks of first, whenever she runs into trouble. Not sure if it will only be a dream but when she is growing up to be an adult, I want to be the shelter that is safer than friends and the consultant whom she looks to first for advice. To even have a chance at this, there is a need to remove fear in our relationship.

I spent many sleepless nights thinking about how I can handle this phase and read many articles on tantrums and how to handle them before I finally came up with the following as a guideline for me to teach Joy.

Manage expectations

  • refuse all requests made by way of screaming and shouting to show her that it will always be a “no” when she does that
  • Not to acede to each and every request made respectfully, and not to make a big deal out of it, so that Joy knows that you don’t get everything you ask nicely for but its no biggie.

The respectful words and the disrespectful words

  • Joy to say “Please, may I …..” when she wants something
  • Joy to say her thank yous
  • Joy to say sorrys, citing reasons why
  • Not to say “I don’t want you”

Special words to use when things get overwhelming

Joy found the words to tell me how she felt when it got overwhelming. While crying during a tantrum, she said “Mummy, I have a lot of angry inside me”. After that, we kept on using the same way to talk about any overwhelming feelings she has

I have a lot of sad inside me

I have a lot of happy inside me

I have a lot of angry inside me

I want to correct the words “sad” to “sadness”, “angry” to “anger” all the time, but I decided not to push it. I rather she tells me how she feels than feel conscious of the words she uses to tell me.

The respectful things to do

  • taps my hand when she wants my attention.
  • no hitting, scratching and throwing things

At my end, I have been trying to make these adjustments:

Demonstrate respectful words and actions

  • I’ve been saying my thank yous and sorrys to Joy right from the beginning, but basically what she is supposed to say / not to say, I have to do the same. Also, Try not to say “no” but rather, choose words like “how about…” or “let’s do … instead”.
  • Show her that I respect her by getting consent before I remove her diaper in the morning, or remove her clothes for bathing or changing, or take away her toys.

Work with the teachers

Two days ago, I sought Joy’s teachers’ help to work with me to handle our situation.

  • They encourage Joy’s classmates to praise her when she arrives in school without throwing tantrums
  • They talk to Joy about wanting happiness for mummy
  • They talk to Joy when she is feeling unhappy or weepy.

Check my expectations

I believe that she can do it, but I’ve been reminding myself as well that Joy is just 3.5 years old, as of now.

Give it time

I obviously haven’t been successful in reducing the tantrums greatly but I once in a while I see that we have small progress. I know it takes time and I must give it time.

Find motivation

Sometimes, I go back into my older posts to relive the good old days, when she was unbelievably sensible and tantrums were the least of my worries. It gives me reason to believe that she has a good nature. Also, read articles which re-affirms my desire to bring Joy up respectfully, or articles about handling tantrums, like this one which I came across yesterday.

Its like teaching her not to put on the wrong shoes on the wrong feet, isn’t it.
This is really trying for me, because I can be very impatient but I think that Joy is a child who feels a lot and I need to help her use it to her benefit. This is not a “tips” post, I am writing on a day when I’ve had a little too much – in Joy’s words,  “I have a lot of frustration inside me”. Hopefully, it serves as a reminder of my greater purpose to myself for the days when I find myself wavering.

If you have found ways to deal with this, please share, I need to hear them!


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2 Replies to “Handling tantrums | Raising Joy respectfully”

  1. Hi Estella,

    Don’t mind if I share some of my experiences.
    Firstly, I believe full time working mum does affect a child’s behaviour. They greatly need alot more attention when you are back from work. Thus, alot of parents are frustrated why they only wants to play but don’t eat. Throw tantrum , etc. Need alot of play time attention and read books that are more related to good behaviour might be good. Hug n kiss them more esp at night when they are about to sleep. Nixon enjoys , smiles to me n reciprocate the kisses n hugs.

    I don’t buy toys with Nixon around, if not i buy when he is with daddy outside. But this year birthday. I let him choose. The next time I visit toy store just for him to play there, he insists on buying a toy for the first time. He beg n hold the toy. I almost want to give in but I also insist “no” , explaining only birthdays can choose. The more he shouts and cries. The more determine I am not to give in. I don’t care how people see as long as I know what is right for him. I just tell him ” if you want the toy, you stay here. I’m going home. BYE BYE.” He will most willing to drop the toy and follow me out.

    Of course, that’s Nixon. I know he will choose to go home with mummy than insist on the toy.
    So this works for him.

    There’s incident where he will fight with his cousins. Knowing that all kids want to be good boys n girls. I ask them, “Do you want to be good boy and girl? ” Expected they will say “Yes.” I will then say good boys n girls don’t fight. Then they will say “okay.”

    I use hand to hit before but realise he hits me too. Cane is so far the best. He got no chance to get the cane (place it high so he wont have the chance to take) thus unable to mimic me!
    I cane him hard before to let him remember the pain since v young. Now he is 3, i try not cane him but always ask him,” Do you want mummy to get cane?” He will say “no.” Then I will say then stop blah blah… Or say 1, 2. He will know 3 , cane will appear.
    Even when outside, i will say if you don’t listen , I’m going to buy cane… It works at an instance!

    I’m quite a strict, firm and fierce mum but I often smile, play, do silly things with him too. So Nixon still loves me to bits too. Probably that’s why he listens to me more than daddy. ( Daddy is having a hard time teaching him and make him listen)

    These are episodes of how I try to use what they believes , likes, dislikes, wants. By understanding Nixon, it allows me to post a question that leads him to answer that I want to hear. He can relate and weigh what’s important to him more. (Does he wants to fight or wants to be a good boy? Does he wants to be “bogeh”or brush teeth? Does he wants cane or keep toys. Does he prefers to see doc or eat chocolate? Do you want the cat to “woof woof” bark/ or bully at you? If not, don’t bully them. ) It will make them stop watever you don’t want them to do. It works perfectly! The way I teach is really very prompt to and to the subject matter. Post questions n let him have a chance to choose n they will listen. ( the questions has to be quite extreme , u know what I mean?)

    Basically throughout his years, I’m the one who ask him more questions than him!

    Parenting can be very challenging but once you find the suitable way for then. It will be very rewarding.

    1. Hello Limin! :) I took so long to reply your comment coz I felt defensive when you mentioned that full time working mom affects a child’s behaviour but after observing for some time, I tend to agree that yes, it’s true to some extent. Even when working full time also i spend the time having talks with her and doing silly things with her. We’re sometimes inseparable.

      Caning doesn’t work for me, because Joy is very observant. She once asked me if it’s alright to hit someone did something wrong. I said no, of course not, nobody has the right to hit other people. She also told me that “Mummy, you know, when you cane me I’m scared, so I cry, but I still don’t want to do what you want me to do.” It tells me that fear instilling doesn’t solve the root problem, although it can give me the behaviour i want now.

      When Joy was Nixon’s age, she was also much easier to teach. In fact, she just listens most of the time. I think it’s a phase where she tries to challenge and see what she can or cannot get away with. When she throws a fit, I also let her cry and she cries really, really loud, with screaming to relieve the frustrations inside her. I don’t care as well what other people think, but I care whether she is safe.

      When I give her choices like, do you want to eat chocolates or see the doctor, she would tell me “I want to eat chocolates and see the doctor”, because she has no fear of doctors or falling sick or even, going to the hospital. That’s where it gets tricky. Haha.

      What I do now is repeatedly reinforcing my stand on what is acceptable what is not. She doesn’t give up easily but neither do I. We’re making improvements on the absolute nos and I pick my battles. So far, so good. Hope it’ll become better!

      Thanks a lot for your heartfelt comments. I really appreciate it. :)

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