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6 Ways Changing My Perspective Helped Stop My Kid's Tantrums

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"He has a hard time regulating himself," I'd tell myself over and over whenever my then 5-year-old son would throw a tantrum and go from 0 to 100 over the simplest, most innocuous thing. Our pediatrician had told us our son was totally normal. "There's nothing wrong with your son," our doctor said. "He just has a hard time regulating himself."

If you're like me, the parent of a kid prone to tantrums, you know how difficult and emotionally draining tantrums can be. I didn't handle his tantrums well. I was angry and resentful, mad at my kid that he couldn't keep it together. I wanted him to be like other kids who never seemed to be fazed by much.

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Parenting books were somewhat to blame for my resentment. Every parenting book suggested that kids throw temper tantrums as a way to manipulate their parents to get what they want. I'm sure some kids do. But in my son's case, he simply didn't know how to control his reactions. He was either really happy or falling apart. There was no in between. It wasn't until I changed my reaction to his tantrums and realized my job was to teach him how to calm himself that his tantrums ended.

So how did I stop throwing tantrums about my son's tantrums and help him to regulate himself? Here are six things I did.

1. I CHANGED: I stopped being angry at my son for throwing tantrums

Instead of willing my son to be different or being angry that he was throwing a tantrum, I accepted that this is who he is and learned to help.

2. I STOPPED ADDING FUEL TO THE FIRE: I didn't ignore my son, but I did ignore the tantrum

My son wasn't trying to get attention by throwing a tantrum. But I noticed that when I did try to speak to him when he was throwing a tantrum, it almost seemed to start the tantrum over. So while I always made sure my son was safe and that others around were as well, I didn't talk to him while he was throwing a tantrum except to say one time, "I love you and I'd be glad to talk to you when you've calmed down."

My son needs to know I love him no matter what and not feel like he's a bad kid for freaking out.

3. I STOPPED THROWING TANTRUMS: I stopped telling him to stop

A child who can't regulate himself certainly isn't going to have a miraculous epiphany because his mom is screaming, "Stop it!" My son needed me to be a calm, kind force who could show him how to react.

4. I BECAME THE TEACHER: I teach him how to calm himself down

Our pediatrician suggested that I needed to teach my son to calm his own tantrums by 1) Not talking to him during the tantrum, which only makes it worse. 2) Picking up a book that my son likes and reading it aloud within earshot of my son. Our doctor said that if I simply started reading a book aloud, my son would want to join in and would learn that he could pick up a book when he's feeling out of control and calm himself down.

I didn't believe her, but I tried it and the results were exactly as she suggested. Now when my son gets upset he'll often ask me to read a book or he'll take one out on his own. Makes sense! Grown-ups have tools to calm themselves down. Why shouldn't kids?

5. I DON'T MAKE IT A TEACHABLE MOMENT: I never talk about the tantrum afterward

Talking about the tantrum afterward only gave it more weight than it deserved. Unless my son brings it up, I don't. We move on and move forward.

6. I LOVE HIM UNCONDITIONALLY: I don't punish my son or take something away after he throws a tantrum

We tried every sticker chart, poker chip system and reward system known to parent-kind with no results in getting rid of tantrums. Fact is, a lot of kids who are prone to tantrums are anxious kids to begin with, so feeling like they're going to lose something for a behavior they can't yet control only adds to the anxiety and the tantrums. My son needs to know I love him no matter what and not feel like he's a bad kid for freaking out. So we got rid of all the charts and rewards and just tried to deal with the problem head on.

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For a while, my son was throwing huge tantrums every day. The tantrums used to seem so random, but now I can track backwards and see what led up to the meltdown. I can't remember the last time he had a meltdown. But if he does, I'm going to tell him I love him and read him a book he likes. Point is, I'm not mad. I'm helping. That's my job, right?

Does your kid throw tantrums? How do you handle it and what are your suggestions for other moms who might be at their wit's end of their kid falling apart?

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