Have you ever had one of those mornings where you felt like it was a battle just getting the kids out the door? One of those days where they hate everything and don’t want to go to school? Suddenly pizza lunch is the worst idea ever, soccer day sounds awful, they don’t like their teacher, they don’t like their friends, they hate this shirt, and on and on? Or maybe it’s a bedtime battle at your house. They’re not ready to go to bed; they need water, they need a snack, they don’t want to go to bed. Whatever the battle is, there’s often crying, tantrums, yelling, and it’s all you can do to hold yourself together and not give in to the frustration you’re feeling in that moment too? Every parent of a young child has been there because all kids test their boundaries to see what they can get away with. If you’re tired of the battles and want to learn how to reduce the tears and tantrums, there’s an easy way to make things more harmonious in your home.
Set Expectations and Stay Consistent
It doesn’t seem like a huge thing, but honestly, this can make a world of difference with your kids. Young children are naturally curious about everything, and they want to know what they can get away with. They test boundaries; they challenge, they question constantly. When you set expectations and consequences for behavior and follow through consistently, you will have fewer tears and tantrums because the kids know what to expect. They’ve tested and know what happens, so they don’t need to check again.
Have you noticed when you have a really rough morning with your child and they don’t do what they’re supposed to do to help get out the door on time and they don’t get whatever item they want (for example, to watch a movie in the car on the way to school) because they didn’t do what they were supposed to do (help get ready and walk to the car on their own) there are massive tears. Massive. They may say they hate you. They may cry the entire way to school. You may feel beaten by the tiny human by 8 am. But the next day, when it’s time to go to school, they know they have to do what’s expected of them to get what they want from you and suddenly, they are cooperative and happily walk to the car? This is because they tested the boundary and found out what would happen and they know if they want something in return, they need to do what you expect.
In the hard moments, it’s so much easier to give in to their demands (let’s admit it, they’re not often requests, right?) and stop the crying or yelling or whatever it is that’s happening at that moment but if you give in, you’re going to continue to struggle because you’ve now taught the child that they can get what they want by misbehaving.
How we Address Tears and Tantrums in a Montessori Environment
We get tears. We get whining. We get crying. We get it all. We spend our days with young children, and while it’s true they’re often better for someone else than they are for mom and dad, they’re pretty comfortable with their teachers, so they want to test their boundaries at school too. We acknowledge the issue, address the unacceptable behavior, and don’t engage until the behavior has been addressed. For example, “I understand that you’re upset and I’d like to help you, but I can’t understand when you cry (or when you’re whining, yelling, whatever it is at that moment). When you’re ready to talk about it in a regular voice, I’m ready to listen.” And we ignore the crying, whining, yelling, etc. until it stops and when the kids know that they can be heard and listened to and partnered with when they speak in a regular voice, they often will quiet down and resume a normal, non-tantrum conversation quickly. Once they are ready to talk, we meet them at their level, we kneel and look them in the eye and listen to their concerns and see if there’s a way we can work together to figure out the problem. Many times the kids want to know they’re being heard.
Set expectations for your children and stay consistent. Don’t give in even in the hardest, most frustrating moments. Put yourself in a brief time-out if you need a moment to gather yourself because tantrums and tears are frustrating to deal with, we understand. Showing consistency in your behavior will help your child feel safer and understand how things work in their home environment and in time, you’ll have fewer tears and tantrums because they know they can ask for what they want and you’ll listen to them and help.