Sometimes…You Can Stop A Tantrum With A Hug


March break has left my daughter exhausted and emotional. The other day she threw herself on the ground, threatening to hit and kick me. I don’t even remember what caused this tantrum because they seem to happen regularly.

My daughter is six years old, yet sometimes I think she acts more like a toddler. Friends and family are constantly telling me that I have a very “energetic” daughter. That she’s extremely “emotional” and “spirited.” And I agree.

As she flailed her legs and arms on the floor, screaming and crying I tried my best not to react in a negative way. I’ve always been impatient and known to have a bit of a temper. My daughter even tells people I’m “the tougher parent” because I don’t let her get away with much.

Instead of my usual yells and threats and time-out, I decided to approach this tantrum differently.

Since we had family over, I knew I didn’t want to do this in front of everyone. I tried my best to pick her up to carry her away but she’s heavier now and a limp child is almost impossible to pick up. I resorted to dragging her. Not my first choice, but the only other option was to leave her there kicking and screaming, overtired and upset, in front of everyone. I don’t know about you, but I get pretty embarrassed when my daughter acts like this in front of my family, with my little nieces, who are close in age, just standing there and stare, bewildered by her behavior.

Once I got her away I knelt on the floor and scooped her up into my arms. She resisted at first, her high, shrill yell in my left ear, but I maintained my patience and smoothed her hair, hugging her tightly, and said, “It’s okay, I’m just trying to hug you, I love you.”

Eventually she stopped struggling and hugged me back, and all at once she just unloaded on me.

She’s an only child and I try my best to have a strong relationship with her, one where she will feel comfortable talking to me. All the way home from school and at the dinner table she talks my ears off and I do my best to listen and understand, but I realized in this moment that she leaves so much left unsaid.

We talked about her cousins, her friends, how hard grade one is, how she misses her old school and how unfair everything is. I was completely taken back by this new information because I had been under the impression that she was a very popular child who did well in school and enjoyed it. Apparently I was only getting half of the information.

She then let me know that she misses spending time with me because I work too much, and go to school to much. I know the feeling, because I miss spending time with her, too.

Almost an hour later we were still sitting on the floor hugging in silence when she said, “Mom, you’re the best at making me feel better.” This one little sentence made my heart fill with love and I was so glad I took a more calm and gentle approach during this tantrum, and that we were able to have such a wonderfully open and honest conversation.

I hope to remember this the next time she throws a tantrum, which is sure to be any day now.