THIS ARTICLE IS A READER FAVORITE AND WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN April 2013.
I don’t know how it rolls in your house, but in this testosterone-drenched domain of mine, Kindergarten means a lot of things.
It means adorable new uniforms — red polos and navy hoodies.
It means sweet class parties and kids who still appreciate them (my 4th grader is so jaded — his class just wants snacks and a movie).
It means field trips to fun places like the local fire station and the Children’s Musical Theatre.
It means homework, weirdly enough. (Did you have homework in Kindergarten?)
It also means stratospheric, catastrophic tantrums of epic proportions.
They arrive, almost without fail, on Thursdays. My theory is that by Thursday, my dimpled darling has given every ounce of self-control he’s got to sitting in a circle, walking in a line, and not running in the hallways. By the time I get him, he’s all used up and all hell breaks loose.
That is not an exaggeration. Had we not gone through this once before, I would have been in therapy by now, but as I said, in our house, this is par for the course. Not that I’m enjoying it any more the second time around. It’s rather horrific, actually.
I am the mother struggling with a large, angry, flailing child in the parking lot, trying desperately to keep him from pulling away from me and throwing himself under the tires of an oncoming vehicle. I am the mother trying to urgently whisper, cajole, command, plead, and correct the child at her side who has mastered the art of a blood-curdling scream.
Everybody is staring. Some are even pointing.
What is a parent to do?
I’m no Cloud and Townsend, and while I have read all the books, I cannot offer you any hard-and-fast solutions but these:
Pray without ceasing.
Pray first, pray in the middle, and pray at the end. When they are screaming, I am whispering the Lord’s prayer or Psalm 23, because sometimes those are the only words I can summon under stress. It really helps.
Take a time out (you, not them).
When it’s safe to do so, take a minute to be alone and breathe deeply. Try square breathing (I tend to hold my breath when I’m anxious, which doesn’t help with clarity of thought). Breathe in for a count of four, hold it for a count of four, breathe out for a count of four, hold for a count of four. Repeat. It’s calming and it floods your brain with much-needed oxygen.
Hug it out.
When the storm passes, and it will (I promise), the sunshine will come out after the rain for both you and your child. Take the time to hug them, and reassure them of your unconditional love. Now let’s take a moment and be really honest — you might not feel like hugging them or saying “I love you” right then! Do it anyway. By the time you’re done, you will feel it. They need that reassurance from you. Unconditional love does not negate the consequence of their behavior (and there should be consequences). It simply reassures your child that you love them despite their actions – kinda like how God loves us despite our actions! He loves us no matter what we do. Love your child the same way.
Pray some more.
Pray with your child, and ask for God’s help on their behalf. If they are ready, help them ask God for forgiveness and self-control, too.
It’s important that you hold the line – it is a hard, hard, hard thing to do as a parent. But the right thing is almost always the hardest thing. We are raising adults, not children. Establish what the consequences for a meltdown are before one occurs. We have a standard line in our house: “Do you ever get what you want by screaming?” They know this. But it’s going to take a while for the will and the wish to get in sync with each other.
There are stormy seas ahead for us yet. According to our family pediatrician, tantrums actually peak at the age of six to seven years old as children become more aware of reality and the imaginary world (or their own reality) falls away. The end is not yet in sight, but with lots and lots of prayer, some hugs, some boundaries, and more prayer, we will get through this — together.
How do you cope with tantrums in your house?
What are the things you do to keep your cool and calm together?
BoyMom of two, Adelle Gabrielson has been married to her first love for over 15 years. Retired from a career in marketing communications and advertising, she now spends her days working as a secretary, and her evenings trying to keep peace between the boys. Adelle has been writing personally and professionally for over 15 years; you can find her work with (in)Courage.me, Thriving Family, Bay Area Parent, and MOPS International. You can also connect with her at AdelleGabrielson.com