Let us say your 7 year old kid is throwing a ‘tantrum’. He is upset, he is angry, and throws things around. What do you do? Discipline him? Punish him? Make him sit in a corner? Or is there another option. Yes, there is another option. It is more time consuming but a rewarding option. Here are a few things that we can try.
- Acknowledge that he is upset, and understand that he is upset because of something. What might work here is to help him calm down. I know a case where the mother gave her seven year old angry kid, a pile of newspapers and asked him to tear it to pieces. Both of them did it together. Within a few minutes it became fun and they were laughing. As he came around she began a conversation to find out what upset him.
- Accept that the child’s feelings are real and don’t wish them away. ‘Let him be, he will come around’may not be a very smart thing to do. Don’t dismiss it as ‘attention seeking behaviour’ as some parents tend to do.
- Use the occasion to coach the child become aware of his emotions. Talk about him getting angry and throwing a tantrum, when he is in a receptive mood. Use plenty of anecdotes and examples. Use examples from stories he likes.
- Sometimes the child’s anger is stemming out of frustration of not being able to do something. For example: he could be frustrated that he is not able to do his maths as fast as the others in his class. This is the real issue that we must address.
- Respect the child’s feelings. We think that respect is reserved for people who are older than us. Respecting your child’s feelings requires that we accept his feelings and deal with that with care and compassion. In most cases love and affection are best. Have you ever seen how sprinkling few drops of water on boiling milk stops it from overflowing?
- We think of meditation as something meant for adults. It could be a great asset for a child to understand how to meditate on something. You could seek the help of a reliable teacher to do this. The resulting calmness could help the child handle challenging situations better. Most importantly it will ensure that emotions and impulse don’t rule the child’s behaviour.
- Parents tend to wish away negative feelings. Jealousy, envy, low self esteem, anger and so on. In a high pressure environment in which we live, it is but natural that the child will experience these emotions. It is best to be prepared by educating ourselves on how to handle these.
- Keep the channel open and ensure that the child is prepared to have conversations with you on anything and everything. No censorship. We have to earn the child’s trust and keep it. Interestingly the child actually starts by trusting us. (Sometimes we lose his trust by our own conduct.) He may be 25 years younger to you but treat him as an equal during the conversations.
- Listen with your head and the heart. Listen with total attention. Don’t do it when you are cleaning the kitchen or doing something else. Give him undivided attention. That is what you would want when you are upset – Right? Do unto your child what you would want others to do unto you.
- Work with the child to find solutions. As much as possible avoid giving him orders/prescriptions to do this or that. When you do that your child learns several things and so do you.
Our ability to help the child understand, use, regulate, and manage his emotions, would make a difference to the way the child will lead a life of happiness and joy.