I have had the pleasure of working with Laura Karl and we share a similar belief system when it comes to tantrums. I am honoured to share her guest blog post with you.
How to respond to tantrums: a Holistic Life Coach’s perspective
Through my work at the Alberta Children’s Hospital, I have learned many many therapeutic interventions, but the most powerful one that I’ve learned through my Holistic Life Coaching practice and motherhood that can bring both the parent and child immediate relief is “holding the space”. When a child was in a full emotional meltdown, screaming and saying things they don’t mean, the only effective thing I could do in that moment was to find my centre, drop into my heart, be still, be calm, and just be there for the child. I would sit next to them and stay calm for the both of us.
I heard a great story tonight from one of my many life teachers. He told me a story about his dogs. He and his partner have 5 little dogs which they adore, but they like to bark for reasons they sometimes have no idea. He explained that he would respond by yelling back at them “hey stop it!”, “get back here”. Eventually, they went to a dog trainer for advice. The dog trainer told them that by yelling at them, you are essentially barking at them and they get the message from their pack leader that it is okay to bark. What the dogs actually need is a softer pack leader to stay calm so that they can return to a state of calm.
Now children obviously aren’t exactly like dogs, but the premise is the same. My child is still very young and although I am getting better at seeing the meltdown warning signs, it still seems to happen in the blink of an eye. In those moments when you observe their mood start to change and you’ve tried your best to keep the environment neutral, but a full on meltdown is already happening, the only thing you can do is hold the space. We parents want so badly to take the pain away for our children, which is a natural and very caring response. However, you can’t fight fire with fire right? Or all you are left with is fire! Get out of your head which is likely spinning with trying to figure this out, or to come up with solutions to make it stop, or wishing that this wasn’t happening yet again. Remember, kids are terrified of these feelings. They don’t want this any more than you do. So support them by taking a breath, dropping into your heart and finding your center, and just be there.
Okay parents, this takes practice! It’s not like you’re on some beach in Maui breathing in the salty fresh air, there is a child screaming in distress next to you. It’s like building any muscle and you have to work on it to get stronger. In those moments make sure the child is in a safe place, and then take a breath. Let the urge to fix or “bark back” wash over you – trust me, it will pass. Observe that urge, and then release it. You literally can feel the air change. In this moment, the most effective thing you can do is hold the space for your child. When they are ready, they will themselves release those emotions and be embraced by your calmness, lovingness, and peacefulness. Now breathe and give them and you a big hug.
Laura Karl, mother, Holistic Life Coach, Registered Nurse
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