Are you experiencing the unrelenting wrath of a 5 year olds’ tantrums? Maybe you found yourself googling “How to cope with a 5 year olds’ tantrums.” is your 5 year old suddenly acting like a two year old but with even more sass?! Err … who knew that was even possible?
Do you sometimes find yourself trying to negotiate with a child so overcome with a massive overwhelm of emotions – the likes of which you haven’t seen for a long time?
If you answered yes to any of these or have a similar experience – I hear you! And I have dug my way out – here’s how…
“Where on earth does all this anger come from?” I wondered as I kissed his tussled head having navigated yet another tantrum. I didn’t know 5 year olds’ tantrums were “a thing” until we were in the midst of them ourselves.
But boy do I know they exist now!
we have had our share of public meltdowns over the years – my favourite recently was the dramatic sinking to his knees in the middles of the toystore car park because he didn’t want to hand over his birthday money to get a toy – he wanted to keep his money and get a toy too – don’t we all?!
Of course I knew as a parent I was going to encounter tantrums – and even occasionally the meltdown. But I seriously expected the tantrums would become more sporadic as time passed.
But once back at school after his first summer holidays it suddenly felt like I was dealing with a new tantrum [as well as the usual suspects] every bloomin day.
The thing that threw me a loop was that I expected it LAST year when he started school.
I expected the utter fatigue and overwhelm from the transition to school. That everything was new. He was now away from me 5 days not 3. And that he he was having to navigate situations on his own without me by his side 24/7.
All good reasons to be gentle and work with him through his turmoil.
So I was fully prepped and stocked up on empathy and patience.
This year? This year, I was prepared for tiredness for the first few weeks but thought he would enjoy not being the youngest. Be happy to be back with his mates. Happy to be busy and one of the “big ones” and already adapted to the daily school rhythm.
And I think he was all those things. But he is also tired and then the crux of it was summed up perfectly one evening as he wailed …
there’s just too much writing and not enough explore and learn Mummy!
And what could I say but …
I get it kidda, you are right and I am sorry.
Because whilst there is an element of “welcome to the real world son” I really can’t help but feel sorry for the little dude.
He has gone from short bursts of learning coupled with a lot of learning through play, to a whole lot of learning with a little bit of play.
So I got it … But the tantrums were driving. me. crazy.
Then I saw this: a beautiful timely reminder from Colleen at Mother.ly care of L R Knost that I needed to see:
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So it transpires 5 year olds’ tantrums are up there with the best of ’em.
It also transpires that the tools to help them through these times remain pretty much the same as when they were younger just with a greater ability to use the experience for something positive.
1. Help them burn it off!
One of the things about year 1 vs reception is that they are mentally exhausted but not so much physically. A pretty lethal combination. When he get’s in all he has the mental energy to do is slump in front of the TV. Yet in reality he needs to let off steam. And if this doesn’t happen in a physical way the mental load becomes too much and we have a full on meltdown on our hands about even the tiniest of things.
In the spring and summer months this is easy enough – straight out into the garden and let off steam. In the autumn when the return to school fatigue is at it’s worst we are also contending with daylight savings so have no time for outdoor play before it’s dark and most days it’s wet and miserable anyway – so we need to find ways to dial up the fun at home.
We kick leaves on the walk back to the car. We jump in the puddles. We turn potential sticking points in the routine into fun times eg disco bath time / hold a family dance party as they get undressed. Make mealtimes more interesting – have dinner on a rug as an indoor picnic or in a makeshift den pretending to be cowboys!
Offset the fatigue of the learning at school by dialling up the fun at home but in ways that don’t add to the overwhelm of the day.
2. Calm Reflection – Be sure to wait!
Once the tantrum is over be sure to do something fun or silly to ease the tension and release it.
Then when we are both calm we can come together to resolve the underlying issue/trigger.
It’s important to hit the right tone – you don’t want to be seen to be going over old ground for the sake of it, dredging up an argument again so you need to pitch it correctly. Amy McCready’s tip of using “I noticed earlier…” really helps. It’s not an accusatory phrase and can be used to reintroduce the topic in a non-confrontational way.
3. Use Empathy and see the Positive Experience for Learning
T’s key worker at his nursery once described him as having
A Kind Heart and an Old Soul
It’s the perfect summary of T – he is one of life’s thinkers – and he retains a scary amount of information – turning it over in his head way past the event actually happening, I guess rather like a cow chewing the cud ha ha!
He ruminates on situations and because of this sensitivity to feelings he has a huge capacity for empathy. Which is a blessing but can also be really tricky.
In the case of tantrums I find it useful to tap into this because he has the ability to reflect on how his actions made me / others feel. And as long as I acknowledge when I make him feel something too we can process the difficulty as a team and agree together how we can prevent this happening again.
Involving him actively in the resolution in a calm way once the storm has passed we are able to reconnect. But it’s also teaching him how to resolve conflict peacefully. By involving him in a calm discussion rather than me just laying down the law or telling him his behaviour was unacceptable I’m also treating him like a grown up and starting to not only teach, but hand over, the skills he’ll need moving forwards.
4. Do a 360 check
Always take the time to check there isn’t something else going on. I worried that there was something happening at school other than the obvious upgrade in workload. Simply because by tracking the triggers and prior events to a tantrum there was a correlation with mentions of school and tantrums.
No matter how many times I asked the direct question I was told “nothing”. Then an epiphany moment – we snuggled up and watched his school service DVD from last year and just got chatting about the other children. Suddenly his experience at carpet time when he is being touched constantly by the child behind him is really bothering him.
It’s an innocuous touch – the other kid is simply a fiddler and Theo happened to be the one within reach. A simple chat with the teacher and instant fix: problem solved.
5. Be Their Safe Place
Reflect a moment on how you cope as an adult when you have had a bad day. Sometimes you need to vent, other times you need to go for a walk to clear your head or grab some time alone at the gym to take it out on the treadmill. Other times we are snappy with those we love the most. For our kids they don’t have the ability to recognise the frustration needs an outlet until it’s too late. So be their safe place. However hard it feels at the time, weather the storm with them and keep calm – this too shall pass!
6. Drink wine
It’s medicinal. (You not them!)
Come to these challenges with a “how can I help” mindset rather than “how can I stop / contain this (whilst wishing the ground would swallow me up) mindset”. It isn’t always easy – but it is always the trick to avoiding power battles and navigating through rather than bolstering the storm!
- Burn it off!
- Wait for still waters to reflect: Keep yourself calm and don’t escalate
- Use empathy and see the positive learning experience
- Use the time to do a 360 check for other triggers and niggles
- Be their safe place
- Drink the wine!
Be determined to treat this new dynamic with as much patience and grace as you can.
When I find myself slipping I keep coming back to this quote which always helps:
I have also found ways to manage the tantrum by cutting it off before it starts. Not only by recognsiing triggers quickly but when I do Idon’t give him the opportunity to blame me for his feelings. Sounds threatening when I write it like that but it’s not!! it’s giving them a choice, the power to make that choice and ownership of their actions. Thanks Amy McCready for the exact script for this – I am eternally grateful!
I will continue to be available with open arms at all times.
And I will continue to drink wine!
To anyone else navigating the 5 year olds’ tantrums I hear you – I empathise. Please know I am sipping my ice cold glass of pinot and raising it to you my friend. Because we are all in this crazy, mind numbing, exasperating, blessing called parenting together and knowing someone out there is also going through this – in a strange schadenfreude kind of way – really helps!
So Cheers Momma – we’ve got this!
Love Ali x
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