Understanding “Fits” and Trantrums

Everyone tantrums or throws FITS.      Everyone.

It’s just that we don’t label adult’s having “lost it” or having a “forty-year-old-moment” or “going on a binge,” or “maxing out the credit card at the Mall” as TEMPER TANTRUMS.  However, usually this type of behavior is the equivalent of a child’s “throwing a FIT.”

Why do we all, at some time or other, engage in this type of behavior?

List time:

  • We are angry and determined to meet our needs at that very moment.
  • We have grown increasingly hopeless and helpless about changing something/usually somebody; and, it feels like we “owe” ourselves some personal “payback.”
  • We feel as though our peers/family don’t understand us, so we need to show them or pacify our needs for self-gratification.  Having to endure bosses, peers, family, spouses, partners that consistently don’t understand our needs often leads us to “showing them–or proving to ourselves.”

So you get the idea.  FITS, at any age, have to do with control, usually of OTHERS, sometimes environment, but most probably the inability to get others to do something for you.

Adults spend money, drive too fast, have affairs, buy workout equipment and dye their hair.  Children scream, pound the floor, throw things and kick, bite and hit.

So what to do?

I’m going to narrow this answer to “what to do with children who have tantrums.”  The adult thing is a whole ‘nother gig–or is it?)

  1. The best thing is to see if the “Fit” will STOP if you remove the audience.  Ask the child to please take his or her screams (including all behaviors) to the bedroom.   If the child is willing to do this–GREAT!  The child is still listening to and reacting appropriately to parent.  No further action is needed by the parent.  Say “Thank You.”
  2. If the child demolishes the bedroom, but has been compliant with staying in the bedroom.  Too bad that the child has a “room wreck.”  Parents don’t need to do anything, especially REPLACE broken objects.  Most children will only do this once, if they realize that favorite things will not be replaced.  If a child continues to “room wreck” AND stays in the room, the parent might want to not have a lot of things in the room (some parents have removed everything but mattress, sparse linens and a few clothes.)
  3. Child is not compliant with request to go to room.  See example A:

Here’s an example of this:

A:  “J. look at me.”  If eye contact is given say, “Thank you.”  And then, “I need for you to stop screaming in the kitchen.  You may scream in the bedroom.”  J. ignores all the above and continues.  “J. you may either walk with me to your bedroom or I will help you.”  If J. walks with you (even sobbing and pleading, that’s Great)–go to bedroom and say, “Thank you.”  And the, ” You may leave your bedroom when you can be NICE, again.”  THEN LEAVE and shut the door.  Don’t peek back in unless you feel as though your child may be UNSAFE.  Let your child scream and sob to her heart’s needs.  IF she returns to you in a FINE condition, you can say, “Thank you for keeping your screams in the bedroom.  I’m pleased that you are being FINE now.”  And then continue on as though it is a brand new beginning and there are no problems.

B:  If J. doesn’t walk with you, you may have to hold his hand or physically pick him up to place him in his room.  If he stays, great!  If he comes right back out, go through the step above again–WITH FEW WORDS and repeat process.  Remember to be polite and demonstrate the appropriate interactions that you would like your child to imitate.  Always be gentle and caring.  Your child is learning all kinds of lessons through this process.  You want your child to understand the Refrigerator Rules without hostility, bullying, etc.

C.  If J continues to disregard your best efforts at being compliant, you may have to engage in a snuggle process.  Remember, do not engage in a snuggle process until you have TIME and ENERGY to do so.  Power struggles will ensue if you have to end the snuggle process before your child has capitulated into accepting you as a loving parent who will provide SAFETY and TRUST.

  1. If the child will not follow parental requests to remove self from audience, then here’s next less intense option:
  2. Request of child to stay with parent wherever parent goes in the house.  The child can continue to scream, plead, beg, demand, etc as he or she follows the parent around.  No physical hurting of the parent is allowed–EVER!  If child is compliant with this request, ignored all Tantrum behavior and encourage child WITH FEW WORDS to help with whatever chore you are engaged in.  This actually works for some kids.  They settle down and begin to sniff loudly, act weak, but continue to be with parent.  Eventually, they stop all together.  This is the time to reward the child with parental attention, such as “I’m so pleased that you are able to be with me and not be angry.  Let’s go play a game together.”

If NONE of the ABOVE even comes close to what you are trying to cope with; then you will have to use something like the following examples:

D:  The child that needs immediate attention WITHOUT your EMOTION or lots of WORDS is the child who is in immediate danger of harming self, others or environment.  This child needs to have your help Immediately.  This help usually comes in the form of being picked up and moved to a safer environment (usually this means the sofa or bed or large armchair).  Without an audience.  If you have to pick up and carry a child who refuses to comply with your request to STOP harmful behaviors, then snuggling is almost always the next, best step.

The times when snuggling is not the best step usually is due to not having a safe environment in which to snuggle (you are at McDonald’s and you have to get home to find a suitable environment).  Not having the time to snuggle (is the house burning down?).

If  you do not have the physical capability of coping with a struggling child (can you obtain the help of a trusted friend/family member?).  If you do use someone else to snuggle with your child, you need to remain with the whole snuggle process and be the one who verbally interacts with your child if the other person is not a parent to the child (as the child understands the role of that person).

The above is a lot of information.  If you believe you are needing to use the snuggle process due to a totally out-of-control child that is old enough or big enough that you are unsure as to your capabilities–PLEASE find a qualified professional to help you.  Do not try to implement snuggling techniques without checking this out with that face-to-face qualified professional.  There are always more resources for you and your child.

Be gentle with your child and yourself.  Safety and Trust are huge pieces of the developmental framework.

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