Temper Tantrums

Good morning, Five Minute Families. We are instructed in God’s word to live life in a “one anothering” way – to love one another, to forgive one another, to encourage one another, and so many more. The two words “one another” are used approximately 100 times in the Bible. Variations of it abound in Scripture as well. So, I ask, how exactly does a family ‘one another’ when someone has a tantrum?

Note, we said ‘someone,’ not just a child. Adults might say after our own tantrums, “Sorry for overreacting.” Mental health experts and counselors may have a variety of definitions for terms, but whether you call it overreacting, a tantrum, meltdown, outburst, breakdown, whatever, we all – all ages – get to a point of feeling overwhelmed. We have trouble calmly voicing our needs and controlling our emotions. Unfortunately, at times our response to a situation can be intense, to say the least.

Now, we are not talking about someone who is narcissistic or manipulative using temper tantrums to control others. You may very well have someone like that in your family; if that person refuses therapy, then you will need safe boundaries and get into counseling yourself. A former colleague and friend of mine recently wrote an article about the abuse he, his mother, and his siblings were subjected to while he grew up. He pointed out well-meaning Christians suggested that his family “suffer well” through the abuse. We must take this moment to say explicitly… if you are in an unsafe situation, get to safety. There may be people who do not understand, who tell you to change your own behavior (for example, “well, what did you do to make him angry?”), but Christ-followers must protect one another well. Likewise, if anyone close to you is in an unsafe situation, get them to safety and encourage them to continue to prioritize protecting themselves and the children.

Also, please note that sensory disruptions are different than tantrums. They may look the same but they are not, so parents, you must be aware of your child’s needs, especially if they have any neuro-divergent issues.

Remember, toddler tantrums are a normal part of development. Learning emotional self-control is a process, and the brain’s developing the neural pathways for healthy emotional processing takes time. Rest, food, and actually being listened to are the big three needs for our little ones.

All that being said, let us point out briefly that toddler, adolescent, and adult temper tantrums are processed and developed out of different areas of the brain. Toddlers and adolescents are primarily using the amygdala – the emotional brain center. So, yes, they are overly emotional. Adolescents can also be having hormonal washes that complicate their dealing with stimuli (such as, thinking dad is yelling when he isn’t). Thus, kinda – in a way, adolescent tantrums are also a typical part of development.  Adults read emotions from others through their pre-frontal cortex which is the logical area, but when we adults are overwhelmed, even that becomes much more difficult.

A family must realize that we each have different triggers. Anxiety, stress, depression, and hunger are just a few things that may contribute to the feelings of being overwhelmed. Of course, there are also sensory considerations even within neuro-typical family members, routine changes, communication breakdown, illness, and major life events to consider. So, what do we do when someone we love has a tantrum?

You cannot reason with someone in the middle of a temper tantrum. So, if a loved one has a tantrum:

  1. You may need to walk away completely from the situation.
  2. Or, if you must stay nearby for any reason, so that you do not get angry yourself, distract yourself with something else while your loved one calms down.
  3. And, make sure you are keeping calm by praying. Commit Philippians 4:6-7 to memory as you work through tantrums with a loved one, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
  4. Be intentional about your own deep breathing deeply. By focusing on your breathing and slowly inhaling and exhaling you allow God’s natural stress-reliever, the parasympathetic system, to engage and stimulate relaxation.
  5. Likewise, studies show that listening to slower tempo and calming music can dramatically reduce anxiety.

 

Next week, we are going to address how we need to handle a tantrum AFTER it has occurred. Relationships can be damaged by not addressing tantrums, so please remember to tune in next week as we walk through repairing relationships that may have been damaged from a temper tantrum, or ongoing tantrums.

 

May God guide your moments as you intentionally invest time and love into one another. Be blessed!

Leave a reply

Temper Tantrums

Good morning, Five Minute Families. We are instructed in God’s word to live life in a “one anothering” way – to love one another, to forgive one another, to encourage one another, and so many more. The two words “one another” are used approximately 100 times in the Bible. Variations of it abound in Scripture as well. So, I ask, how exactly does a family ‘one another’ when someone has a tantrum?

Note, we said ‘someone,’ not just a child. Adults might say after our own tantrums, “Sorry for overreacting.” Mental health experts and counselors may have a variety of definitions for terms, but whether you call it overreacting, a tantrum, meltdown, outburst, breakdown, whatever, we all – all ages – get to a point of feeling overwhelmed. We have trouble calmly voicing our needs and controlling our emotions. Unfortunately, at times our response to a situation can be intense, to say the least.

Now, we are not talking about someone who is narcissistic or manipulative using temper tantrums to control others. You may very well have someone like that in your family; if that person refuses therapy, then you will need safe boundaries and get into counseling yourself. A former colleague and friend of mine recently wrote an article about the abuse he, his mother, and his siblings were subjected to while he grew up. He pointed out well-meaning Christians suggested that his family “suffer well” through the abuse. We must take this moment to say explicitly… if you are in an unsafe situation, get to safety. There may be people who do not understand, who tell you to change your own behavior (for example, “well, what did you do to make him angry?”), but Christ-followers must protect one another well. Likewise, if anyone close to you is in an unsafe situation, get them to safety and encourage them to continue to prioritize protecting themselves and the children.

Also, please note that sensory disruptions are different than tantrums. They may look the same but they are not, so parents, you must be aware of your child’s needs, especially if they have any neuro-divergent issues.

Remember, toddler tantrums are a normal part of development. Learning emotional self-control is a process, and the brain’s developing the neural pathways for healthy emotional processing takes time. Rest, food, and actually being listened to are the big three needs for our little ones.

All that being said, let us point out briefly that toddler, adolescent, and adult temper tantrums are processed and developed out of different areas of the brain. Toddlers and adolescents are primarily using the amygdala – the emotional brain center. So, yes, they are overly emotional. Adolescents can also be having hormonal washes that complicate their dealing with stimuli (such as, thinking dad is yelling when he isn’t). Thus, kinda – in a way, adolescent tantrums are also a typical part of development.  Adults read emotions from others through their pre-frontal cortex which is the logical area, but when we adults are overwhelmed, even that becomes much more difficult.

A family must realize that we each have different triggers. Anxiety, stress, depression, and hunger are just a few things that may contribute to the feelings of being overwhelmed. Of course, there are also sensory considerations even within neuro-typical family members, routine changes, communication breakdown, illness, and major life events to consider. So, what do we do when someone we love has a tantrum?

You cannot reason with someone in the middle of a temper tantrum. So, if a loved one has a tantrum:

  1. You may need to walk away completely from the situation.
  2. Or, if you must stay nearby for any reason, so that you do not get angry yourself, distract yourself with something else while your loved one calms down.
  3. And, make sure you are keeping calm by praying. Commit Philippians 4:6-7 to memory as you work through tantrums with a loved one, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
  4. Be intentional about your own deep breathing deeply. By focusing on your breathing and slowly inhaling and exhaling you allow God’s natural stress-reliever, the parasympathetic system, to engage and stimulate relaxation.
  5. Likewise, studies show that listening to slower tempo and calming music can dramatically reduce anxiety.

 

Next week, we are going to address how we need to handle a tantrum AFTER it has occurred. Relationships can be damaged by not addressing tantrums, so please remember to tune in next week as we walk through repairing relationships that may have been damaged from a temper tantrum, or ongoing tantrums.

 

May God guide your moments as you intentionally invest time and love into one another. Be blessed!

Leave a reply

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