How to deal with a child’s temper tantrum – Gentle parenting

by Mary Ann on July 20, 2011

cute little boy picture

Jack, age three

The little boy, 3 years old was out of control, a temper tantrum of sorts. I didn’t know what he wanted but I could tell that he felt desperate to have whatever it was. His mother was using a calm voice, talking to him, holding him gently while he twisted and screamed, then leading him away. I could tell that many of the on-looking adults felt upset with the mother. Why wasn’t she doing anything about this terrible tantrum? Why didn’t she just spank him or do something to make him stop!

That little boy was my grandson and his mother, my daughter. We were at a family reunion and this wasn’t his first outburst. He is three, that difficult age when a child attempts to learn how to control his impulses, learn to be patient, and learn to wait. It is tough. I know some adults who haven’t mastered these skills yet.

little boy smiling pictures

Jack is a very happy boy and learning all the time

I would look across the campground and there he would be wailing about something that he needed right now, while other adults were making judgments in their minds about his parents and what they were or in this case, weren’t doing that they ought to be doing. I could tell that this silent judgment was wearing for my daughter.

Later she told me that it had taken great effort to stay centered, to stay true to the parenting vision that she and her husband have put into place in their home. What looked like doing nothing to the on-lookers was a clear plan of action for this mom.
Her goal is to help her son control himself. She does that by modeling the behavior that she wants him to emulate. She stays calm. She is gentle but firm. If he can’t get control she removes him to a quiet place and then holds him while he gets control. It isn’t easy. It would be easier to spank him, handle him roughly or yell.

I read a beautiful article yesterday about gentle parenting, about following your instincts and staying centered in parenting the way you feel is right rather than being swayed by the judgment of others. I loved a term that the mother used in describing what happens to a child, in her home, who is having a temper tantrum – she pulls them into her lap for a ‘time-in’ cuddle and chat. It helps them to settle or just be redirected. That is what my daughter does.

Parenting can be a daunting job especially when we choose to go against the grain, so to speak. It takes courage and fortitude to follow what we have decided is right. This is true of our choice of education, the foods we serve, the medical modalities we choose, as well as discipline. Having a clear vision of the outcome that we want will go a long way to helping us stay true to our family decisions on matters of real importance.

palmer family photo

The Palmer's, Maggie, Jodie, Jack and Mary in front

If you are struggling because you haven’t really got a plan or haven’t really decided what out come you want, then it will be helpful to create a family mission statement. Here are some examples of family mission statements and personal mission statements to help guide you as you navigate the sometimes tricky waters of parenting.
If you feel the need for more help in writing a family vision statement The Leadership Education Family Builder program can be very helpful.

If you need help in making more comfortable discipline decisions check out Nicholeen Pecks “Teaching Self Government”.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

L.R.Knost July 21, 2011 at 12:43 am

Thank you for mentioning my article, and here’s a ((hug)) for your daughter for sticking with her convictions. I have six children (24 yrs, 22 yrs, 17 yrs, 12 yrs, 5 yrs, and 14 months~yep, all my hubby’s and mine, lol!)and I know how it feels to have those eyes boring into you! So, so worth it, though. God bless!


Mary Ann July 21, 2011 at 4:32 am

Oh how wonderful to hear from you. Six children is a great family! We had seven and I have had my share of eyes too. Mom’s just need to support one another. : ) I am sending this along to Jodie. She will enjoy it.


Tia July 21, 2011 at 5:14 am

Thanks for this article, it is so true. I really believe us mothers need to stand up for and encourage each other! I so appreciate other moms who model gentle parenting!


Mary Ann July 21, 2011 at 8:56 pm

Thanks Tia. So nice to hear from you. I know you are one of those gentle mom’s. I learned that pretty late in the game but I am a gently grandma. It is never too late to learn a new skill. : )


Karina Palmer July 28, 2011 at 3:56 pm

It is easy to demand obedience; it is hard to be patient and spiritually in-tune to what your specific special child needs.

This model feels like the Gospel plan/Christ’s plan for us as families, as we are currently teaching the Strengthening Home and Family Sunday School class in our church.


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