Why Kids Explode and What to Do about It

Why Kids Explode

Just like us, our kids sometimes react angrily when something important to them feels attacked. First expressions of anger are almost always aggressive. As kids get old enough to express themselves, the aggression becomes words and actions.

I saw it just today. The toddler at the Post Office was angry that her mom wouldn’t give her the sucker the postmaster handed out. She chased her mom through the lobby, and when the mom stopped at her P.O. box, the feisty little gal hauled off and whacked her mom. Mom turned quickly with her finger extended and brow furled. “Stop it!” she yelled. It’s a natural response that doesn’t really teach kids anything constructive. But before the mom could say anything else I simply and rather loudly said to the child, “Wow! You’re really mad! You really want that sucker.” I looked right at her from across the lobby and she looked back. I paused for just a second or two. Her mad face immediately softened. I then said, “but you can learn to be nicer when you’re mad.”

The mom looked at me, looking a bit ashamed but also relieved. She then immediately looked at her daughter and calmly said, “Did you hear him? You should be nicer when you’re mad.” She held out her hand and the daughter took it, and they walked quietly out to the car.

Now it could be that the little gal quieted because she was shocked that some ugly old balding man with a grey beard would talk to her that way. But we’ve seen time and time again that when grown-ups can validate their kids’ anger – even aggressive anger – and put words to what the kids feel, it helps the kids feel understood and then settle down. It helps the parents settle too. Then the resolution can be much more constructive.

The Five Powerful Results of Empathy

There is no more important time for kids to know they are loved than when they misbehave. If the love message misses them then, they will grow to believe that love is conditional or earned. People who believe that love is earned tend to rise and fall with their performance, and compromise themselves for approval. Not what we want for our kids.

One way children know they’re loved is if you simply say so, not in a condescending way, but from your heart, right there while your kids are misbehaving. (Sound crazy? Just try it!) But another powerful, perhaps less-well-known way to express love is by expressing understanding, or empathy.

How a Pipe Cleaner Can Stop Your Child’s Meltdowns!

A Practical Idea for Teaching The Skill of Flexibility

Pipecleaner
Does your child sometimes unexpectedly meltdown at the drop of a hat? Does unexpected change or inflexibility lead to frequent tantrums? If so, you’re not alone! Helping kids sort out their frustrations can be a challenge, especially when they have a tantrum that ramps up quickly.  Practical tools that help a child understand how their behavior impacts others can be simple, like the following example from Jen and her son Jonah.

Despite Jen’s best efforts, her goal of trying to stop her son’s meltdowns just seemed to make them worse. After realizing that she needed to be more proactive instead of waiting for those inevitable outbursts, Jen worked with one of our parent coaches during a parent coaching session on a new plan. Here is her story:

T.E.A.C.H.ing Values in Real Life

Renee and Randy were in a common repeating cycle with their 5-year-old, Peter. “We felt like we were constantly on eggshells because of his daily meltdowns.” We showed them the T.E.A.C.H. framework, and their next report was a great review of how effectively they applied it. Here’s their summary:

T – While Peter was calm they Talked with him about how sometimes our bodies get upset and our energy gets too high. They told him there are a lot of ways to help our bodies feel more calm.

E – They Exemplified self-control by staying calm and by describing their own emotions and energy level. When angry, the parent would say, “I feel angry now, but I want to calm down. I’m going to sit down and take a few deep breaths.” Sometimes they’d play soothing music or take walks, always describing their strategy.

A – They looked for any opportunities to Affirm Peter whenever he avoided a meltdown. Even if he started sucking his thumb they said, “It looks like your body figured out it needs to do something calm itself down.”

C – They Created Opportunities for success when he started sucking his thumb by saying, “Let’s find some bigger, more helpful ways to calm yourself down that won’t be hard on your teeth.” Then they offered some choices of big movement activities.

H – They Helped him get started in the calming activity, making sure it was fun and commenting on how it helped him be so calm and grown up (Affirmation).

In just a few short weeks of using the T.E.A.C.H framework to guide them, Renee, Randy, and Peter were experiencing much more peace in their daily routines.

Parents who T.E.A.C.H. their kids consistently report that their kids are more receptive to their teaching. It takes some thought and prayer!

Frustrated by constant discipline challenges? Take 15 minutes to read our free ebook When Your Child Misbehaves – Four Strategies for Lasting Change.

The Bigger the Meltdown, the Bigger the Opportunity


“Where sin abounds, Grace abounds more”

When a child really “loses it” – the freakin’ out, screaming and kicking kind of lose it – parents have a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate either grace or “ungrace.” Having done the “ungrace” response many times, I know that the impulse is to meet a child’s tantrum with a little tantrum of my own. But I’ve learned over time that meeting a child’s tantrum with my own demands never really helps me accomplish my goals of connecting with my child’s heart. We also learn from others, and here’s a great story from one of our coaching clients about taking advantage of a great opportunity for “abounding grace.”

I Have Changed!

A recent email seemed worth sharing (with permission) as this week’s tip. Consider what you might learn from this inspiring excerpt:

Since our coaching session, things have been going really well with Justin!!! What an absolute joy he has been!  I could write several pages about all of the great things that have taken place with him, with me, with his dad, and in our home. But I want to focus on what I think is the most important thing that has happened:

I have changed!

Tantrums From Tots To Teens

Pouting teen

Teen Tantrums

Teen Tantrums are not all that different than two-year-old tantrums. So read the tip below and apply those principles.

But there are some distinctions, too.

Because teen tantrums are usually verbal, the teens frequently say things that “hook” our emotions. These things can feel quite hurtful. When parents respond out of that hurt – with tears or even anger, this rewards the teen. It gives him or her a sense of power over the parent.

So figure out how you can stay calm. Try not to engage in the “tantrum” until you can be fairly relaxed. This will help you stay reasonable and rational, which is your best shot at helping your teen learn to stay calm too.

Two-Year-Old Tantrums

“What should we do when our two-year-old frequently tantrums at the store?”

  • Some experts say you should ignore the tantrumming child.
  • One says you should step over “the little sucker” and keep walking to teach her that you’re in charge.
  • Others say tantrumming children already feel insecure and should be comforted but not get her way.
  • Most say – stay calm and rational.

Here’s our answer: “We don’t know.”

Then we ask a couple of questions: “What are you hoping she’ll learn?” and “What have you learned so far about helping her learn it?”

Once you answer these questions we can work together to think about and try different strategies for teaching the lessons you want your child to learn.

Some parents end up deciding to ignore the child and walk away. Some decide to offer comfort. Others scold their child, or just pick her up and put her in the cart.

There is no one “right” answer to this. But there are a couple of good questions that can help parents think and decide well for themselves.