I once read a parenting book that scoffed at moms who experience fear when their child has a tantrum.
The book, which I was reviewing as part of a blog “book tour,” scolding mothers for actually being afraid of their two-year-olds. After all, who is in charge here?? You? Or someone who is 1/3 of your size?
The author’s tone, words, and insinuations totally rubbed me the wrong way.
Because here’s the truth: I have been very, very afraid of my child’s tantrums.
Scratch that: I still fight that fear on a regular (even daily?) basis.
I hate it when my child screams at me, yelling angry, ugly, and rude words at my face.
I dread the messes made in anger and frustration by an unruly (usually tired) toddler.
I loathe leaving a public place, eyes staring at me, with a flailing child under my arm (True story: I once carried my manic screaming twins out of an indoor playground, a child hoisted under each arm. I made no eye contact with anyone but my head was held high, y’all).
And there’s more: I dread my own emotional aftermath when my child throws a tantrum. As a highly sensitive and empathetic person, I absorb a lot of their angst; that angst turns into anxiety and it can take hours for it to wring out of my system.
We have some extra challenges in our house too: So many times I scraped the bottom of my “Good Parenting Tricks” in utter helplessness when my son, who is Autistic, has had a meltdown. I’ve lain with him under his bed as he curled his body away from me, crying and screaming at me over and over again to “Get out! Leave me alone!”
Sometimes his fits last for hours and my thoughts turn from fearful to frantic: What do I do? How can I help him? Should I call a doctor? God, God…help him. Help me…
So, yeah. That “Parenting Book” **? It rubbed me the wrong way.
Here’s how I would have liked to rewrite that portion of the book:
Tantrums happen, kind of like shit happens. You can’t help it. Your child is learning and growing but his emotions are immature. Sometimes they come crashing down on him like a wave. And mama? You’ve got to learn to surf. It’s going to take time, and practice and you’re going to crash and burn as you learn which waves to take on and which to ignore.
Pick your battles. Most fits will fizzle out in a few seconds. Other times, the tantrum will grow and grow and grow and take over your whole morning, and your to-do list will go right out the window.
You’ll be in the thick of the screaming and kicking and spitting and hateful words, wondering, “did I actually give birth to this feral creature?” And you’ll feel that familiar fear and panic twisting in your gut and you might be tempted to give in to whatever is making your child go nuts.
Sometimes it’s worth it to give in; usually, it’s not.
Character building takes time, and delayed gratification, using manners, being kind to others, and following through on a task all take discipline and self-control.
You are strong, mama. You may be shaking in your slippers, but you can ride this wave. Choose love and a low, calm voice. Choose a safe place to let your child calm down and then claim a calm down moment for yourself.
Because tantrum-anxiety is real, especially when your kid throws fits 50 times a day (I’m in the thick of it too…I’ve got 4 highly emotional sons, with ASD, ADHD, and SPD thrown in for good measure).
You’re not a bad mom if you fear your child’s tantrums. You’re a normal person who longs for peace and unity in your house, a woman who is worn out yet trying to build character into her hurricane-children.
You’ve got this, mama.
Keep choosing love—it pushes out the fear.
**That was just one of the issues with the book. I actually pulled out of the blog “book tour” because I disagreed with so much of the book.