Parenting

7 Magic Words to Immediately Stop Your Child’s Meltdowns

We’ve all been there – at the mall or the family gathering or the restaurant.  That horrifying, magnifying moment we tell our child no and they go into full-out tantrum mode, kicking and screaming and flailing about because they’ve been denied something they desire.  We cringe in horror and embarrassment as all around us other adults are staring and judging and all we want to do is run away and hide! 

All kids throw fits.  It’s how they begin to express their anger or their disappointment in not getting their own way.  It’s a pre-verbal behavior to communicate they are unhappy or dissatisfied with something.  Fits communicate they want a different outcome and the current situation is unacceptable to them.

As parents, it’s OUR job to see a tantrum for what it really is, to identify the root of the behavior, and to teach a different way of expressing emotions.  We have a magic 7 word phrase we use in our household to snap our kids out of fits almost instantly, and I think you’ll appreciate it too.  But first, why do we need a magic phrase?

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Fits are manipulation

Allowing your children to continue throwing fits teaches them it’s ok to manipulate situations with angry words and behavior.  It teaches them to control a situation they don’t like, and it teaches them they can get their way with a loud yell or a quick stomp.  We would all agree it’s ridiculous when a teenager yells and stomps her foot because you said she couldn’t go to a friends’ house, but if that’s the behavior you allowed when she was little, it’s the same behavior she’ll use as a teen or an adult to get what she wants. 

Allowing Fits as Children Teaches Your Child to Be a Jerk As an Adult

Yep, I said it.  Kids who are allowed to throw fits as children grow up into adults who are jerks.  Why?  Tantrums typically include angry and mean words, blaming the adult.  When you tell your child no and they retaliate with angry words, and you allow it, you are teaching them it’s ok to say angry words when someone tells them no, and you’re teaching them to blame others for their own behavior.  Think about the friends you have who get angry and talk about their boss badly because they didn’t get the raise or the promotion they wanted.  That person most likely grew up in a household where they were allowed to throw fits and use angry words to get their way when they were told no.  Do you want to raise your child to be a jerk as an adult?  Do you want your child blaming others for their actions?  I sure don’t!

Allowing Tantrums Doesn’t Teach Your Child to Manage Their Emotions

If kids throw tantrums all the time, there’s a missing element to their emotional growth.  That missing element is emotional intelligence.  Emotional intelligence is the concept that we identify and communicate how we feel in healthy ways, and in turn, we are then able to communicate with others to resolve conflict and emotional distress.  If we allow our children to throw tantrums, rather than training them to identify how they feel and learn healthy ways of managing those emotions, they are going to grow into adults who are unable to express their emotions.  By teaching our children how to identify what they are feeling, and how to communicate those feelings in healthy ways, we are training our children to engage in healthy emotional relationships.

Allowing Fits Doesn’t Teach Your Child Self-Control

If you allow your child to continue throwing fits as they get older, you’re eventually going to have an adult who is way more than angry.  You’re going to have an adult who rages and lashes out every time they sense any kind of resistance to what they want.  In a sense, a child’s temper tantrum is the expression of the rage and resistance they are feeling, but it’s socially acceptable for a child to throw a tantrum because we logically know they might be too young to express their emotions.  However, kids don’t just automatically learn how to express emotions in a healthy way.  They don’t automatically learn self-control either.  It’s up to us parents to teach our children that tantrums are an unacceptable way of processing emotions, and we have to teach our kids how to identify their emotions and then bring them under control so they can express their feelings in a healthy way.

The Magic Words – Fits Don’t Get You What You Want

So how do we stop the fits and begin teaching our children emotional intelligence? 

We use 7 magic words when a child melts down into a tantrum – Fits don’t get you what you want – and then we strengthen our backbones and stand firm!  In fact, if our kids fall into a tantrum because they want something, we typically do the complete opposite of what they want just to reaffirm that fits don’t get them what they want! 

Fits are manipulation to get a child’s way, and as the parent, I refuse to be manipulated into allowing anything.  Instead, I say those magic words, give my child a minute to register them, and then I ask “Why are you throwing a fit?”  We begin exploring how the child feels, and why he or she feels that way, and we work through the situation together rather than allowing a tantrum to develop.  Using the 7 magic words triggers my kids to stop their fits, to start investigating why they are angry or disappointed or sad, and it teaches them to express their feelings in a way that brings healthy resolution rather than angry words and blaming others.  Instead of allowing temper tantrums or ignoring them, I’m engaging my child’s emotions and hopefully teaching them healthy habits to continue into adulthood.

Resources to Help

If you struggle with saying no or dealing with tantrums, there are other resources to help you. One of my favorite parenting books is Parenting the Strong-Willed Child. It was an excellent read to help me understand my kiddos who were stubborn and hard-headed and intent on getting their own way. Another really great choice is Setting Limits with Your Strong-Willed Child. Essentially, my 7 magic words are exactly this – my way of communicating a boundary to my child. And I’m a huge advocate of counseling – if the situation has gone too far, seek professional help to restore the relationship between yourself and your child. Sometimes we all need a little extra help understanding what’s going on between ourselves and our children.

What does your family situation look like?  Are your children used to throwing fits and getting their way?  Are you tired of the fits? Do you think these 7 magic words would help your family too?  Let me know your thoughts and your results in the comments below!

All the best,

Erin

2 Comments

  • Denise

    I love this! I’ve started to say to my son, “why are you mad?” Or “why are you frustrated?” He’s 20 months old so I am at a loss of where to go from there since he can’t really investigate or communicate his feelings but so much. I do try to give him suggestions as to what is making him mad, like not getting enough attention, hungry, etc. but most times he will be back at throwing a fit two minutes later. Is this just something that we need to wait for maturity and developing emotional intelligence to kick in?

    • apurposefulmom

      Yes, a large part of that is maturity, but you’re doing a great job by investigating the reasons behind his fits! The ages of 2-4 are when kids start learning boundaries, and they don’t like it, LOL! They want to get their own way and do what they want to do, but as parents, we know that some things are harmful or just shouldn’t be done. It’s up to you to be consistent with your boundaries (saying no) and in time he will learn what the boundaries are and whether he can break them by throwing a fit or not. Understand that you are creating your family culture during these years and teaching him what your family finds acceptable and what you don’t. FYI – it takes a WHILE to learn boundaries so stick with it; it can take months to create a new culture and instill boundaries! But it’s waaaayyyy easier to teach a 20 month old boundaries than it is a 16 yo man/boy who’s bigger than you are.

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