Parenting is one of the more rewarding responsibilities one can assume as a grown up. Aside from the sheer joy it effortlessly oozes, it brings with it invaluable life lessons. You learn to not only let go of, but also to sacrifice your own needs and wishes for another individual. You don’t have to do it. You want to do it. It’s almost as if being a parent activates an extra special emotional impetus, turns on a unique ‘love’ switch, and brings forth an innate superpower that enables you to transcend every limit, scare every fear away and take on any challenge. The glory of any and every relationship seems to pale in comparison with the radiance of parenthood.
A whole other human being becomes the centre of your life. A mere mention of this individual motivates you to do things you never thought you were capable of. In order to provide for this person, you gladly give all you’ve got and all of yourself. You go to any lengths to see a smile on the face of your child.
Yet, one day, there is trouble in this perfect little paradise of unconditional love, affection and constant doting. Your little one seems to have become a handful. You thought being a parent was rewarding and enriching. Well, now, it seems like a keenly acquired skill that only a few seem to possess. You are at your wits’ end and nothing seems to work with your cranky little monster. Almost as if, your child has assumed the role of an exacting teacher, demanding unprecedented levels of patience. You seem to be doing everything right, and yet, everything seems to be going wrong. What is happening? You wonder. With the best of intentions, insights and knowledge, you find yourself throwing up your hands at the tantrums of your child.
Investigation into the matter might reveal more than what seems obvious. While temper tantrums are often considered a regular phase of early childhood, more often than not, they could be signs of deeper issues, including depression. Psychologists advise caregivers to watch out for tell-tale signs that could be causes for serious concern. For instance, aggression toward the parent/caregiver, destructive tendencies, yelling, throwing things, falling apart for not getting the desired object, head-banging, biting or scratching oneself until the skin bleeds, and hurting oneself or others during a tantrum.
Temper tantrums are known to occur between the ages of one and seven when children see themselves as the centre of the universe. A tantrum is how a child expresses his or her frustration with the world. A lack of control over their surroundings and a sense of injustice define such behaviour. However, throwing a tantrum can also point towards a child’s inability to handle emotions such as anger, says child psychologist Tishya Mahindru Shahani. “A tantrum is likely to transpire if a child feels s/he deserves or needs that which is being deliberately withheld from him/her. It could be a favourite cookie, a video game or a new toy at the store,” she adds.
Times have not just changed but completely transformed. The simpler perceptions of parenthood have morphed into a more thoughtful, an almost contemplative approach.
Addressing and managing such tantrums surely can’t be a walk in the park. It requires insight into a child’s mind, and of course, enormous amounts of patience. Shahani, who founded Apnatva, a mental wellness centre for children, offers advice that could help rein in a child’s emotional outbursts:
1. Stay composed. If possible, don’t let your child’s tantrum interrupt what you’re doing, and don’t react with threat or anger. This conveys to the child a subtle message that tantrums are not an effective means to get something. Wait until after the tantrum has subsided to discuss with your child his/her behaviour.
2. Ignore the tantrum and pretend as if nothing is happening.
3. Change the setting and mood: Take the child to a different room/space, preferably, with no distractions. If you are in a public space, ignore the tantrum unless your child is at a risk of hurting himself/herself or someone else. At such times, the best option is to stop what you’re doing and leave.
4. Occupy your child with activities such as reading, playing a game, or even making silly faces.
5. Acknowledge your child’s frustration. Letting children know you understand their emotions helps to calm them down, especially if they’re looking for attention.
6. Appreciate good behaviour. It further encourages more of it.
Given that child psychology offers such nuanced advice, you might just be wondering, since when did dealing with a little child become such a carefully thought-out process? When we were little, our parents didn’t have the mental bandwidth to indulge our tantrums. However, the truth is, times have not just changed but completely transformed. The simpler perceptions of parenthood have morphed into a more thoughtful, an almost contemplative approach. After all, one has to keep up with the dynamic environments children are exposed to today. The world that children live in circa 2016, puts a tremendous onus on a parent. After all, we did say parenting is a responsibility, a privilege that makes you smile for no particular reason.