Tag Archives: tantrum

6 Things To Do When Your Child Says “I Hate You!”

By Bill Corbett, author of Love, Limits & Lessons: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Cooperative Kids, and member of the API Resource Advisory Committee, www.cooperativekids.com.

We’re all trying to get more done in less time and with less money. When it comes to our kids, we do our best to spare no expense to give them the world. Then, without warning, they hurt us with words because they don’t like a limitation or boundary we’ve set or the word “NO.” Here are six things to do the next time your child screams, “I hate you!”Bill Corbett

1. Remain calm. In order to do the next five things, you’ve got to keep your emotions from getting the best of you. It’s also an opportunity to model self-control for your child.

2. Acknowledge that the words stung. It’s hard to think of anything more hurtful that our children can say to us than hearing them say these words. Accept the hurt, but don’t let it determine your behavior at that moment.

3. Avoid the urge to hurt back. It is a normal human reaction to become defensive when someone attacks or hurts us. Remember that it’s your child in front of you at the moment, and know that he doesn’t mean what he has just said.

4. Say to the child, “You look like you’re mad at me.” A child either loves or hates us, there is nothing in between for her. Our children do not know hate as we do. Help them put into appropriate words what they are feeling at the moment.

5. Remain silent, and let them express their anger without retribution or defensiveness. Here’s one of those opportunities I’m always talking about—talking less. If a child is allowed to express his anger, it is emotion released and not forced back inside to build up and explode sometime later.

6. Examine what it was that triggered your child to get angry to begin with, and take responsibility for your part. Children need plenty of advance notice to help them transition from one activity to another, and visual cues (something they can watch for) work best. Also, giving in to a child’s demands just to get her to calm down only teaches her to repeat the demanding behavior whenever she wants something.

One more thing—our parents would not have tolerated hearing us say those words when we were kids. That was a different world and a different time. Don’t let your parents’ voices in your head control your own parenting in today’s modern world. Ignore their voices, and do what you know is right.


My Child Doesn’t Want to Visit her Father

By Naomi Aldort, author of Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves, www.AuthenticParent.com

Q: I have recently gotten divorced. My daughter is three and initially enjoyed her time with her father, but since staying overnight she refuses to go. Each time he comes to pick her up it is a giant scene. I try to convince her and remind her what a good time she had before, but she won’t budge. What should I do?

Note to readers: This response relates specifically to the questioner, who is a mother and primary caretaker.  Though the terms “mother” and “father” are used here, other terms may be appropriate in individual families that may have different custody and caretaking arrangements.

A: It is the parent’s job to see to it that the child feels at ease during time together. My guess is that staying overnight must have scared your daughter, and/or there may be other issues that she does not feel comfortable with.489190_81593777 upset girl

Any time we try to convince a child to ignore her inner voice and follow our ideas, we teach her to become dependent and insecure. In essence, we tell her, “Ignore how you feel inside, and do what someone else tells you.” Unfortunately she may actually learn this undesirable lesson. She is learning to fall for future peer pressure, media sales, social pressure and to become more dependent on what others say in general. This is the nature of insecurity, a learned habit of undermining one’s own inner guide and following others. Continue reading My Child Doesn’t Want to Visit her Father

Consistent and Loving Discipline

By Kelly Bartlett, author of Encouraging Words For Kids, certified positive discipline educator and Attachment Parenting International Leader (API of Portland, Oregon, USA), www.kellybartlett.net

In the Eight Principles of Parenting, Attachment Parenting International reminds us of the importance of consistent and loving care for children. When children receive this kind of care, they learn that they can trust their caregivers. They develop a healthy attachment to those who are always there and who meet their needs with love and respect.KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

As my kids grew from infants to toddlers to young children, I wondered how I could apply that same principle to my discipline style. After all, when my kids were babies, I made sure I met their needs with consistency and love. How could I continue to do so when their needs became more complex and less physical but more emotional?

Learning a few positive discipline tools helped. I found positive discipline to be such a natural extension of the loving care I had so consistently given in my kids’ infancies. But I also found it took a lot more effort as everyone’s emotions became much more prevalent in our relationships. Continue reading Consistent and Loving Discipline

The “Go Away, Persona” Mystery: Helping my Young Child Adjust to a Change in Caregivers

By Tamara Brennan, Ph.D. , Executive Director of the Sexto Sol Center,  www.ourcozytime.com

In the pine covered Sierra Madre Mountains of southern Mexico we are raising our young daughter on a small permaculture farm. We keep our door open to the people from the tiny mountain communities who come here to learn how to grow their own food organically. It is work we love, but the demands of managing multiple projects through our non-profit organization make it absolutely necessary to have full-time household help.   1182571_99590542

The young women who have worked for us managing our home have been real lifesavers. Our housekeeper provides order, structure, and lunch in our busy office-school-home. She also fills in the gaps in care for Nicole when Mommy is on the computer or attending visitors.

Flori was one of these indispensible helpers. Nicole, just 3 years old, adored her. She would pick up her play phone and pretend to be Flori talking to her boyfriend. I was grateful that, as the mother of a grown son, Flori understood my daughter’s needs and knew how to keep her feeling cared for. With Flori here I could get a little more sleep, knowing that Niki would happily run into the kitchen for the breakfast she would make in her predictable way.    Continue reading The “Go Away, Persona” Mystery: Helping my Young Child Adjust to a Change in Caregivers

A Tantrum is a Choice

By Naomi Aldort, author of Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves, www.AuthenticParent.com

A tantrum can vanish before it starts if we put the spotlight on it with validation and playfulness. Six-year-old Danny (names and scenarios are changed) came into the kitchen and asked his mother for a dessert. His mother said, “If you want something sweet, there are grapes, peaches or dried fruit.” Naomi Aldort

“I want only watermelon, that’s what I want. Nothing else!” said the boy emphatically.

I was sitting close by and saw the tantrum building up. Danny stamped his foot lightly, he frowned, and his voice became tight as he was repeating his plea and was ready to explode. At that moment I said, “There is no watermelon, and you want to have some! You are getting yourself into a tantrum. Let’s have a tantrum about it together; a double tantrum, you and I.” The boy smiled and immediately relaxed. I then added, “A triple tantrum with Mom, too,” and seeing his Dad walking by, “no, a quadruple tantrum with Dad, too.”

The boy turned around laughing and looking at his Dad. Dad acted a slow walk, sneaking out of the room as though he wanted nothing to do with it. The boy went after him. His father returned to the dining room and produced an impressive tantrum. “I want watermelon,” he screamed theatrically as he stamped and jumped with a thump. Danny was so excited. He laughed and ran to tell his brother all about it. In a minute we heard the boys playing happily. Continue reading A Tantrum is a Choice

What Happens to the Brain When We “Lose It”

By Kelly Bartlett, certified positive discipline educator and attachment parenting leader (API of Portland, Oregon USA)

Learning neuroscience isn’t something every parent has time for, so Dr. Dan Siegel and Mary Hartzell, authors of Parenting from the Inside Out, developed a simple and surprisingly accurate model of the brain that parents can make with their own hands, which helps us understand what goes on in there. When we know what’s going on in our children’s brains (and in our own), we are better able to respond sensitively and appropriately when emotions run strong.

Make a fist with your thumb tucked inside your fingers. This is the model of your brain; your fist is the brain, and your wrist and forearm are the spinal cord, carrying nerve impulses to the rest of your body.

The bottom of your palm is the brainstem. This is where the brain connects to the spinal cord and is where our instinctive behavior and involuntary functions are regulated. The brain stem controls things like breathing, heart rate, hunger, digestion, body temperature, etc. It is our basic, “primitive” brain.

Your thumb, tucked in the middle of your fist, is the midbrain. This is where our emotions and memories are created and processed, as well as where the fight-or-flight reflex is triggered. The midbrain is our “emotional brain.”

The back of your hand and fingers, encasing everything, is the cerebral cortex. This is where higher functioning occurs. This part of our brain allows us to think logically, act with kindness and empathy, and it houses our reasoning and problem-solving abilities. The cortex is our “rational brain.” It is in this part of a child’s brain that Attachment Parenting has a profound impact.

The brain is structured to communicate. It sends messages from section to section within itself about what our bodies are feeling and needing. When a child screams, “No!” and lashes out to hit because he is angry, a parent’s brain interprets this data as, “Hmm, I don’t like this, and I need to be treated differently.” Only we don’t always react so calmly, right?

Take another look at your brain-fist. See where your fingernails are? That’s the prefrontal cortex, the very front part of your brain that sits behind your eyebrows. This is where logic and reasoning originates. It’s the part of the brain that kicks into gear when we have a problem to solve. Now, sometimes the emotional brain (thumb) and the rational brain (fingers) don’t communicate so well. The emotions of the midbrain are simply too overwhelming, our fight-or-flight reflex triggers, and we “flip our lids.” Now make all four of your fingers stand straight up. Flip.

Of course, our brains don’t actually change shape like this, but this simple demonstration is a valuable tool in understanding how our brains function during emotionally charged situations. See your fingertips now? See how far away from the midbrain they are? When we “flip our lids,” our rational brains have a very poor connection with our emotional brains. Our feelings are intense, and we’re not able to access the logical, problem-solving part of our brain. We need to calm our anger and ease our fears in order to restore our rational brain to its coherent state (close fingers over thumb again).

Children and adults alike experience a flipped lid. But as the human brain isn’t fully mature (that is, all parts communicating effectively) until sometime between 21 and 30 years old, children flip their lids much more often. They need a lot more help “re-connecting” the prefrontal cortex with the midbrain; that is, calming down and learning how to respond to strong emotions.

Here are a few tools taken from Jane Nelsen’s “52 Positive Discipline Tool” Cards that help during “flipped lid” moments:

  • Hugs – When your child flips her lid, a hug may be the last thing you want to offer. But it might be the thing she needs most. The mirror neurons in her brain are hard-wired to assess the emotional state of the people around her and influence how she’ll react. When her brain picks up on the loving composure in a hug, its chemistry begins to return to a calm state. If your child is not ready for a hug when she’s immediately upset, just let her know you’re available and would love a hug when she is ready. See what happens!
  • Focus on Solutions – This is for when you’re about to flip your lid. Yes, there’s a huge mess on the floor. Yes, your two-year-old is bothering his older (and now very annoyed) sibling again. Yes, someone lost an important item again, or someone else is dawdling to get ready…again. But rather than get mad and yell (again), focus on practical solutions to these problems. Instead of thinking, “What can I to do to get through to you?” think, “What can I do to help you succeed with this? What solutions can we come up with?”
  • Positive Time Out – This is perfect for when either you or your child has a flipped lid. Before addressing your child, take a positive timeout for yourself to calm down and restore your brain chemistry. The problem—the one that triggered your flipped lid—will still be there, ready to be addressed when you’re feeling better. With time and practice, you can also teach your child how and when to take a positive time-out for himself, so he can learn how to calm down before doing or saying anything inappropriate.

As emotionally responsive parents, we help our children develop efficient communication between their emotional brains and their rational brains, though this is not easy! In the face of a highly emotional “flipped lid” (our own or our child’s), it is most helpful if we remember that the reaction is not personal or purposeful; it’s simply the normal result of our brain chemistry and just needs some loving restoration.

Staying in Control when Things are Out of Control

By Shoshana Hayman, director of the Life Center/Israel Center for Attachment Parenting, http://lifecenter.org.il

“When I’m calm, I have no trouble responding patiently, but the problem is that my child’s tantrums jangle my nerves and I lose control of myself!”

I hear parents say this over and over again. They might be talking about their five-year-old son who is whining because he wants them to buy him the toy he sees on the shelf in the store, their 10-year-old son who is complaining because he claims it was his brother who made the mess that he now has to clean, or their 15-year-old daughter who criticizes the family rules. Parents often feel stretched to the limits of their patience because of these daily minor confrontations.

“I just want to get the job done and get on with things!” But trying to find a quick solution usually prolongs these conflicts, and getting angry spoils the atmosphere as well as the relationship.

Seeing the child in a different way can help parents stay calm when their children are not. When parent and child are together, their brains do a dance! The parent can lead the child to a state of calm, rather than the child leading the parent to agitated confrontation. In each of the scenarios mentioned and in many others like them, the child is feeling frustration, one of our most primitive emotions. He is confronted with something he cannot have, a reality he doesn’t agree with, a situation he wants to change. When children are frustrated, it is normal for them to have temper tantrums, bite, kick, hit,  throw things, slam doors, yell, or talk back. They have not yet developed the ability to adapt quickly to the given circumstances. Their brains have not yet reached a level of development that helps them think of their options and choose their responses maturely. These are processes that take years to come into full fruition.

The most important role and perhaps the greatest challenge of parents is to believe in and support the processes which bring out the finest human qualities: caring, patience, thoughtfulness, courage, flexibility, self-control, adaptability, and responsibility. One of the ways parents can fulfill this role is to remain calm when the child is not. It helps to remember that children cannot yet control their impulses to hold on to their demands or to behave aggressively. When the parent remains calm, patient, compassionate, warm, and loving, the child then feels safe, that someone is in charge, and that his parent can handle his out-of-control behavior.  The child can then come to rest and begin to see a different reality.

Parents can see themselves as a safe haven as they accompany their children through the maze of getting from their feelings of frustration and anger to their feelings of disappointment, sadness, and coming to terms with what they cannot change. Perhaps this perspective will help parents remain calm and in control when their children are not.

Tips to Dealing with Acting-Out Behavior

By Rita Brhel, managing editor and attachment parenting resource leader (API)

Earlier this year, I attended a day session put on by the Appelbaum Training Institute in Omaha, Nebraska USA. The purpose of this session was to train childcare providers, but it gave some great tips for parents, too, in dealing with acting-out behavior from their toddlers and preschoolers:

Be Proactive

  • Stay calm — It’s important to QTIP (Quit Taking It Personal). Children act out for a variety of reasons, but it’s not because they dislike you. It’s because they’re frustrated, tired, not feeling well, hungry, or have another unfulfilled need.
  • Create a positive atmosphere — Children feed off of negative vibes. If you’re feeling stressed, they pick up on that and start acting out how you feel, which of course only perpetuates how you act, and the cycle goes round and round. This tip also applies to the physical atmosphere — children love bright colors and light and fun shapes and music. Decorate your house in your child’s artwork and provide plenty of opportunity for them to get involved in activities. I have a dresser filled with activities, from coloring to puzzles to ink stamps to sun-catcher kits.
  • Give compliments throughout the day — Make sure these are genuine and not conditional, so they’re not confused with a reward-based discipline system.
  • Speak in a quiet voice — We don’t need to shout to make our children hear us. They actually listen more when spoken to in a soft, respectful voice. Try whispering when you really want them to listen. Continue reading Tips to Dealing with Acting-Out Behavior

The Third Step in Responding with Sensitivity

By Dottie Stone Coleman, MAT, MEd

Whatever their age, every interaction with our children — every word, every response, every look — has the potential to build up their self-confidence and self-esteem, or tear it down. Likewise, every behavior of our own in which we model self-confidence, respectful self-expression, and responsible self-care and self-advocacy has the power to encourage and build those kinds of behaviors in them. All eight of Attachment Parenting International’s Principles of Parenting contribute significantly to building self-confidence and empowerment in our children of every age. That said, let’s look at a few examples of Responding with Sensitivity — examples of beautiful parenting sure to promote the traits we so hope to see developing in our children.

Responding with sensitivity is usually done by active listening, or acknowledging feelings expressed by your children; and then affirming, or validating, those feelings. For example, “I know you’re upset because we can’t buy that toy today. I get frustrated, too, when I can’t afford something I want.”

But let’s consider that there may be a third step to responding sensitively, and that is, when possible, “eliciting or suggesting an action based on the feeling.”

For example, Owen, age five, wanted a new outfit for his toy dog. His mom told him they would not be buying anything else on that trip to the store, and Owen was upset. So, his mom asked him how he might earn some money to get what he wanted the next time they came to the mall. Owen had learned how to crochet at preschool, so he got busy making crochet chains of different lengths to be used as rings, bracelets, and necklaces. One day, Owen’s dad let him set up shop in an unused space in Dad’s office, and thanks to Dad’s generous co-workers, Owen earned enough selling his chains to buy the items he wanted! He was ecstatic, and so proud of himself.

On another occasion, Owen and his mom were leaving a restaurant on an extremely hot day and just ahead of them was a family of seven — a mom with six kids, two of them babies. Owen was worried because the family didn’t have a car. His mother told him they were probably walking to the bus station. Owen was sad about their situation and concerned about the little kids because of the heat. Soon nine people were crammed into mom’s minivan to give these folks a ride to the bus. They caught the bus they needed and avoided a 30-minute wait. Owen felt so good about helping them; he couldn’t stop talking about helping them catch their bus. What wonderful reinforcement of his compassion and for his self-confidence that Mom went out of her way to act on his concern! Of course, I’m sure she will also teach him that you can’t safely take into your car just anyone who seems to need help, but in the circumstances of that day, it was so empowering that she acted on his feelings.

Nick, also age 5, is a curious, deep thinker. After encountering the idea of black holes in space, he had many questions, like “What happens to the things that get sucked into a black hole?” His father acknowledged and affirmed his curiosity by saying, “That’s a really good question, Nick. I’m afraid I don’t know.”  But Dad didn’t stop there. Dad happens to have a friend who works with the particle accelerator at a nearby university. Dad arranged for Nick to talk to this friend, who did a great job of putting his answers in terms that Nick could understand. Again, a caveat: Obviously it’s not always possible to answer a five-year-old’s questions in terms they can comprehend. But, when we take their questions this seriously, it sends a message that their thoughts and their curiosity are important, and warrant following up on.

And one more example from Owen:  A visit to Grandma’s house overnight was marred at bedtime by the absence of Dino, Owen’s long-time sleeping companion, who had been accidentally left at home. Owen was very tired from a long day of exciting activities, and he was inconsolable because Dino wasn’t with him. Owen’s father and his grandmother listened actively, sympathized, and offered substitute loveys, all to no avail. Finally, Dad suggested that Owen phone Dino, make sure he was OK, and tell him he’d be back tomorrow. The call was made, and with the help of Mom, who was at home with Dino, Owen told his friend where he was, learned that Dino was doing fine, and afterward settled down with one of Grandma’s collection of snugglies and went to sleep. Dad’s suggestion that Owen take some action toward restoring his connection with Dino made all the difference.

Thus, Responding with Sensitivity could be said to include three As:

  1. Acknowledgement
  2. Affirmation
  3. Action.

Though an appropriate action may not always be evident, looking for one is sure to result in many instances in which your child is helped to feel effective and empowered, both of which are crucial components of self-confidence.

The Role of Attachment in Healing Infant Depression

By Rita Brhel, managing editor and attachment parenting resource leader (API)

HeartDepression — a mental illness marked by unrelenting sadness and hopelessness that permeates the lives of an estimated one in 18 people — is among the most prevalent medical disorders in today’s world, affecting 12 percent of women, 7 percent of men, and 4 percent of adolescents in a given year. Eight percent of adults will develop depression sometime in their life, and women are most prone — their lifetime risk is 20 percent.

Depression is a devastating illness. In its mildest form, it drains the happiness out of a person’s life. In its most severe form, depression kills. It can lead to suicide or, in cases where depression symptoms manifest as anger and rage, as assault or worse.

Treatment of depression, overall, is usually complicated. There are many severities of depression, from mild but chronic to seasonal affective disorder to anxiety to major depressive episodes. Chemical imbalances in the brain often contribute to the development of depression, but that is rarely the only cause. Additional contributing factors may include recent events such as a death in the family or a job loss; a traumatic upbringing, such as a childhood marred by abuse; low self esteem; major life changes, such as a new baby or moving to a new city; natural disasters; physical illness; and others. Therefore, treatment often includes not only medication but also long-term counseling; very severe forms of depression can also lead to hospitalization. Continue reading The Role of Attachment in Healing Infant Depression