Taming Temper Tantrums: A Conscious Approach

My child is throwing a tantrum and I don’t know what to do!

Have you ever said that to yourself as a parent?  Having an out of control child often makes us question if there is something wrong with us as parents, or worse yet, if there is something wrong with our child.

The truth is, all parents question how to handle childhood tantrums and most all children have them.  Believe it or not, it’s a typical part of a child’s developmental process and provides great opportunity for us to help them grow. 

When a child has a tantrum or is overly upset, we are used to saying things like “Use your words.” Or, “Stop that crying.” Or the personal favorite of many as a young parent, “Okay, but if I give it to you, no more crying!”

The effectiveness of these statements range from prolonging your child’s frustration to promoting the same behavior next time in order to get their need (demand) met.  The problem with these statements is that they do nothing to teach your child the skills they need to stop the behavior. Fortunately, there’s an alternative.

When dealing with these situations, educators at Lena Pope’s Early Learning Center employ the Conscious Discipline Model.

Dr. Becky Bailey, developer of the model, says that in order for a child (or an adult) to learn these skills, they need to be able to access a higher level of brain function – the prefrontal cortex or “executive state.”

Since this area of the brain is not fully developed until a child is in their mid 20’s, they rely on us to help them access it and learn the skills they need to control their emotions and actions.  This begins by helping teach children how to calm themselves.

Approaching a tantruming child is similar to approaching an angry tiger.  Regardless of how gentle and well-intentioned you are, when you get close to them you are likely to get hurt!  Likewise, to approach an emotionally out of control child with rational talk will have little positive effect.

This is because the child is functioning from a part of their brain that has no access to problem solving or impulse control – the functions of the executive state.  So first, you must get the child to calm down.  This is called self-regulation.  Using the Conscious Discipline Model, children are encouraged to be a STAR….

S mile

T ake a Deep Breath

A nd

R elax

This simple breathing exercise has tremendous benefits in calming, as it lowers the heart rate and brings more blood flow to the brain, enabling access to the brain’s executive state.  Once calm, a child is better able to accept help in communicating their feelings, making choices, and yes…accepting “no” for an answer.

Sound too good to be true?  Here’s the key.  Adults cannot teach a child  to access their executive state unless they are in it themselves.  That means, when a child begins to throw a tantrum and the adult begins to get stressed, the first thing they must do is be a STAR themselves.  Smile, Take a deep breath, And, Relax.  In doing so, the parent or adult caregiver is able to bring the calm that’s needed to help the child do the same.

Over time, this will become second nature, reducing those tantrums to minor disappointments followed by statements like, “You did it. You handled that!” 

Or, “Yes, you are disappointed, but you got this.” 

Helping a child develop this ability to self-regulate emotions will not only have a positive impact on home life. It equips them with the tools they need to perform better in school, too.

Parents who want to know more about how to use Conscious Discipline skills with a child can learn more about it by visiting www.consciousdiscipline.com.

Lena Pope regularly offers FREE Conscious Discipline training sessions as a community service. To find out the date of the next training session and register to attend, contact Jennifer Carpenter, Director of the Sanguinet Early Learning Center, at jcarpenter@lenapope.org or by phone 817-255-2516.