Thoughts from the Counselor
Jul 14, 2015
Upstairs Tantrums vs. Downstairs Tantrums
The chances of your being a parent and not experiencing the awkwardness of a public tantrum are pretty slim. I know I have been in the middle of a store with a screaming child, feeling the weight of the stares and perceived judgment from complete strangers. Even the most confident of parents’ wane in face of a flailing toddler. The internal struggle of doing what you know you should or doing what would be easier and less embarrassing.
The Whole-Brain Child is a book that has some pretty insightful information regarding children and their brain development. I love the concept of Upstairs Tantrums and Downstairs Tantrums. Tantrums are possibly one of the most frustrating behavioral issues we have to deal with as parents and teachers. Most of us know that we should ignore tantrums. Giving attention to attention-seeking behavior will only perpetuate the issue. We also know that there are times our child really is emotionally distraught. These are certainly times that our child needs help processing his emotions to gain control over his behavior.
Upstairs Tantrums, according to The Whole-Brain Child, are tantrums that the child actually decides to have. Downstairs Tantrums happen when the child loses control to access his upstairs brain to regulate his behavior. In the latter, the parent must respond in a more empathetic and warm manner to help the child develop the ability to emotionally regulate himself.
“I see that you are having a hard time. I am sorry you are upset and I am here for your when you are ready to talk about it.”
My concern is my ability to discern the difference. Tantrums often appear the same – a flailing child sniffling, screaming, and being completely ridiculous. One must determine the purpose of the tantrum, the impact of the trigger event, and past behavior to discern whether a child is having an upstairs tantrum or a downstairs tantrum.
When your child is calm enough to process a conversation, validate their feelings first. Everyone wants to feel heard and understood. Children will often respond more positively if an adult validates their feelings, utilizes active listening, and then redirects the behavior.
“I understand that you are upset. Tell me what is going on. I know that it is hard to get ready for bed when you are having fun playing. It is time to clean up and get ready for bed.”
Do you have a funny tantrum story? Please share your experience.
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