From the top of my head to the bottom of my toes, I am an introvert. Solo activities like reading, journaling and scrapbooking not only recharge my batteries, but also bring me immense joy. My “me time” is precious, but as a parent, sometimes the only solo time I get is in the bathroom (and even THAT isn’t a given).
While it remains to be seen if my three-year old is an introvert or an extrovert, in many ways he is the opposite of me. He is a boisterous, gregarious, active boy, and he does everything at 110%, including his toddler tantrums.
Tantrums are the norm of life with a toddler, but they are especially draining for my introverted self. The amount of energy required to defuse an outburst is sometimes enough to make me want to go back to bed – or at least sneak away to journal about it.
While being an introvert sometimes feels like a disadvantage, I’ve learned how to channel my personality to help me navigate my son’s tantrums.
7 Tips for Tackling Tantrums
- Blame the situation, not the kid
We’ve all been there – our child starts to lose it at the store because they are tired or bored or hungry or simply out of patience. Situations cause tantrums, not kids. While you may not appreciate or approve of your kid’s response to a situation, blaming won’t solve the problem. So take a deep breath, count to ten and use the tantrums as an opportunity to teach your son or daughter appropriate ways to respond to life’s ups and downs.
- Read between the lines
While it may feel like toddler tantrums exist as a form of birth control, they actually are a form of communication. Consider what your child is actually trying to tell you as they unleash their tantrum tactics. Is a refusal to eat peas actually his way of participating in the dinner conversation? Is your toddler’s dismay over using the red cup her way of saying she wants to make her own decisions? When you reflect on the root cause of an outburst, how to defuse the tantrum becomes a lot clearer.
- Watch your tone
I can rarely match my son’s intensity, especially during a tantrum. Trying to verbally overpower him almost always escalates the situation. Instead, I’ve found that using a quieter, neutral and slightly indifferent voice can help deescalate a conniption. While I may be seething on the inside, I aim to correct my son using a direct, matter-of-fact tone. I’m far from perfect on this technique, but controlling MY emotions during a tantrum takes away some of its power.
- Validate feelings
Sometimes I interrupt my son’s outbursts with a hug and then help him find the words to label his feelings. Half the time the conversation is beneficial and other times he’s too worked up to talk. But my hug communicates that I value his feelings in the moment. While the consequences don’t go away, validating his feelings reminds him that I love him even when he’s not the best version of himself.
- Surprise the tantrum out of them
My husband has shown me the power of responding unexpectedly to a tantrum. Humor, especially, works wonders at helping my son forget why he’s cranky. Not inherently a funny person? Trust me, I empathize. Don’t over think it, and run with the first silly idea that enters your head. It’s not unusual for me to get on all fours and act like a puppy in the mornings. Completely absurd? Yes. But my son loves it, and it has helped us avoid many tantrums. Tap into your silly side – talk like a robot, pretend you and your child are in space or make a silly face. The quality of the humor isn’t important – just get them laughing.
- Give them space
As an introvert, I understand the need for time to internally process. When I see a tantrum brewing, I avoid engaging with my son if the circumstances allow. This gives him space to cool off on his own and work through his feelings. And sometimes, just sometimes this is enough to defuse a tantrum before it starts.
- Reflect, learn and try again
Much to parents’ dismay, the circumstances that cause a tantrum often appear on a regular basis. My introverted nature gives me space to process what tantrum tactics worked and which ones should never, ever be tried again. I store away these learnings and aim to do better next time. After all, parenting isn’t about perfection.
What about you? Are you an introvert, extrovert or something in between? How have you channeled your personality to tackle your biggest parenting challenges?