Children can surprise us with tantrums or meltdowns at virtually any time. Imagine being at a supermarket, and suddenly finding your child crying hysterically because you told them they couldn’t have the extra large double stuffed pack of Oreo cookies. Sound familiar?
What would you do? The easiest way out would be to give up and simply let them have what they want. Other ways might be to reprimand them, or put them in a time-out. But this would cause more harm than good in the long run.
These sudden meltdowns are stressful and sometimes embarrassing, especially when they happen in public. Has your child ever caused you to be late somewhere or has caused a scene at a social gathering? It is easy to get frustrated at these times, and as busy as parents are these days, we find it hard to give our children the time and space to listen to them.
If only we could understand the causes behind these tears and tantrums, perhaps we could approach them in a better way - one that will not only help our children feel safe but also that will diffuse the situation quicker and lead to long term behavioural change.
In fact, both tears and tantrums can actually be beneficial. They offer us a chance to connect with our child, help them feel secure and warm. Through the art of building this connection, we also help our child build intelligence.
Staylistening is a tool by Hand in Hand Parenting, in which a parent listens to their child’s feelings with unconditional regard. It is unique because it requires you to allow your child to throw their tantrums, or cry hysterically while simply staying present with them in the moment. Once their big feelings have been let out, you will find that not only does your child now feel more secure and connected, but can also think clearly now - leading to improvements in their behaviour overall.
Staylistening will help your child build resilience. When you practice staylistening, you shift focus away from fixing things, and allow them to figure things out on their own with your support. This tool works with children of all ages, not only the young ones. Here are some stories of parents using this tool across all ages -
With a 6 month old
My daughter is 6 months old and was fussing. I wanted to hand her over to the nanny but she didn’t want to go. I held her and tried staylistening. I asked her what happened,(not looking for a reply, but just my way of conversing), I reassured her that mom is right here and that she doesn’t have to go if she doesn’t want to.
I said ‘I love you’.
She settled down and in 5 minutes when I handed her over to the nanny she went without a fuss!
With a 2 year old that doesn't want to wear clothes
My 2 year old is very willful and loud. I always give in to her demands or distract her. Today she demanded to wear shorts and a t-shirt at bed time. I told her gently,
“I am sorry honey you can not wear those clothes, you can wear your pyjamas.”
She was naked and started to shout.
For 20 minutes she cried about wanting to wear shorts. My husband came and retreated once he saw me. No one, not even I could understand what I was trying to do here, but I wanted to try staylistening. I kept telling her that I love her and that it’s ok to want to wear those clothes, but it’s night time, and I can’t let her wear them.
I kept trying to gently bring the pajamas to her. After 20 minutes of crying, she all of a sudden stopped. She found a toy she liked and started playing and didn’t resist me putting the pajamas on her. She slept easily too.
Stay listening with a 15 year old
My daughter is 15 and big built. She has a lot of aggression issues and is very loud when she is angry. She is taller than me and stronger than me and I often feel dwarfed by her. She was angry today and I tried staylistening.
At first she got more angry. She told me to get out of the kitchen.
I stepped out and from the door said “I am going to be right here so I can keep your anger safe.”
This made her more angry. She flung her plate with food all over the floor and hit me.
Normally I would charge at her for these things, but today I just ignored the food and told her “I can’t let you hit me.” and continued to stay with her.
She went into my room.
I got worried as I had things there that I had organized and needed them to remain that way but I stayed on and followed her there. She ran out of my room and locked me in.
I called out from the room “I am still here for you.” and sat in my own room feeling a little silly. After some time (I managed to come out of my room) she was calmer, so I went to her room.
I didn’t bring up what had happened, as she seemed very relaxed. She looked at me and said “Mom I am tired, I think I will go to bed early today.”
I was shocked! It’s a long standing stressor for us as she always sleeps late. Today, she looked more relaxed and went to sleep.
The staylistening was hard to do, and I am working on my feelings in my listening partnership about what she says and does to hurt me, but I am so happy to see my child get an outlet for this anger that grips her so often!
Each of these stories are struggles that a lot of us experience. This doesn’t mean that your experience of stay listening will be the same, it is not about outcome, but what we bring into the outburst. Join our workshop to learn how this tool can transform your relationship with your child from anger to connection.
If you want to learn more about how to help your child navigate big feelings and how to address tears and tantrums, attend our upcoming workshop!