Tantrums are one of the most challenging aspects of parenting. We tend to feel like good parents when our kids are smiley and at ease, but can feel helpless and overwhelmed when they are lying on the floor kicking and screaming. Believe it or not, tantrums are an important part of our child’s emotional health and well-being, and we can learn to be calmer in the face of them. Here are 8 important reasons why your kiddo’s tantrum is actually a good thing.
- Better out than in.
Tears contain cortisol, the stress hormone. When we cry, we are literally releasing stress from our bodies. Tears have also been found to lower blood pressure and improve emotional well-being, provided there’s a loved one close for support. You may have noticed that when your child is on the brink of a tantrum, nothing is right but after the “storm” has passed, moods improve. It helps if we let our kids tantrum without trying to interrupt the process so they get to the end of their feelings.
- Crying may help your child learn.
Recently my daughter was building with some Legos and started having a tantrum because she got stuck. However, after having the tantrum, she sat down and fixed the Lego structure. I’ve seen many moments like this, where a child is struggling and expressing their frustration helps them to clear their minds so they can learn something new.
- Your child may sleep better
Sleep problems often occur because we parents think the best approach to tantrums and upsets is to try to avoid them. Then, a child’s pent-up emotions bubble up when his brain is at rest. Like adults, children also wake because they’re stressed or trying to process something that’s happening in their lives. Allowing your child to get to the end of the tantrum improves emotional well-being and may help your kiddo sleep through the night.
- You said ‘no,’ and that’s a good thing.
Chances are the tantrum your kiddo is having is because you said ‘no.’ That’s a good thing! Saying ‘no’ gives your child clear boundaries about acceptable and unacceptable behavior. We can stand firm with our limits while still offering, love, empathy, and hugs. Saying ‘no’ means you aren’t afraid of the messy, emotional side of parenting.
- Your child feels safe to share feelings with you.
Tantrums are actually a big compliment, even if it doesn’t always feel that way! In most cases, children aren’t using tantrums to manipulate us or get what they want. Often your child is accepting the no, and the tantrum is an expression of how he/she feels about it. You can stand firm with the no, and empathize with his sadness. The upset about the broken cookie or the wrong color socks is just a pretext, and it’s love and connection they need!
- Tantrums bring you closer together.
It may be hard to believe at the time, but watch and wait. Your angry child may not look like they want you around, but they do. Let your kiddo get through the storm of feelings without trying to stop or “fix” things. Don’t talk too much but offer a few kind, reassuring words. Offer hugs. Your child will soak up your unconditional acceptance and feel closer to you afterwards.
- Tantrums help your child’s behavior in the long run.
Sometimes children’s emotions come out in other ways, such as aggression, having trouble sharing, or refusing to cooperate on simple tasks like getting dressed or brushing teeth. These are all common signs that your child is struggling with emotions. Having a big tantrum helps your child release the feelings that can get in the way of his natural, cooperative self.
- If the tantrum happens at home, there’s less chance it will happen in public.
When children get to fully express their emotions, they will often choose to have their upsets at home where they sense we are more available to listen. The more we ask our children to ‘keep it together’ at home and in public, the more the tension bottles up inside of them. The more we can find time and space to listen to our child’s feelings of upset at home, the fewer bottled-up feelings they’ll carry along with them on every excursion.
After emotional moments with your child, take time to practice self-care, talk with a friend, have a good laugh, and maybe have a cry yourself. Staying calm takes practice, but when we manage it, we are literally rewiring our brains to become calmer, more peaceful parents.