When your child throws a tantrum, it can be embarrassing especially when eyes are watching. It can sometimes catch you off-guard, and you would do just about anything to stop the madness from happening.
Here is one of my encounters with one of the children in my life. (Not my son though, he is only one right now)
“Stop it, stop crying! You’re a big boy.”
But he cried even louder.
This four-year-old boy I know has the tendency to vomit when he cries so hard. And to stop the huge mess from happening, the adults around him would respond by telling him to “stop”. But of course, he didn’t.
He cried even more, as he began to knock things off the table.
But it got worse. He wanted to kick and punch.
What to do when your child throws a tantrum?
If you have ever encountered a similar situation, I hope you realize by now that asking the child to stop won’t do any good. Surely, there are better ways of managing when your child throws a tantrum.We want to raise emotionally stable children who know how to project their emotions within the boundaries of Islam.
Why children act up?
Before anything else, we must understand that when children throw tantrum, they don’t do it out of the blue. There is always a causing factor that leads to them acting up. It’s just a matter of us knowing it or not.
Some of the factors that may cause children to act up are when their basic needs are being neglected. This includes lack of sleep, being overly tired, hungry, or even the lack of attention.
Some of them are preventable, but children being children, they can be unpredictable.
So what do you do when it happens?
- shove aside their feelings
- belittle their ‘situation’
- threaten them
- bribe them
- lie to them
- scold them
These may temporarily stop the ‘madness’ but in reality, it will not help them in the long run.
Manage, not suppress
Our job is not to stop them from expressing their emotions, but rather, our role is to help them manage their emotions better. We want to raise emotionally stable children who know how to project their emotions within the boundaries of Islam. In order for that to happen, they need guidance from us to learn how to regulate their emotions.
Here are some ways to help them.
Helping the child regulate their emotions
#1- Be there for them
A lot of children begin to show their emotions as young as 1, and by the time they are 2 they can go on into a full blown tantrum. So how do we help them at such a young age?
By being there for them. Because children need to feel safe before they can learn to regulate their emotions.
#2- Be the calm one
When dealing with children, it is inevitable that our patience will be tested. Allah says in the Qur’an that children are a trial;
وَٱعۡلَمُوٓاْ أَنَّمَآ أَمۡوَٲلُڪُمۡ وَأَوۡلَـٰدُكُمۡ فِتۡنَةٌ۬ وَأَنَّ ٱللَّهَ عِندَهُ ۥۤ أَجۡرٌ عَظِيمٌ۬
And know that your possessions and your children are but a trial and that surely with Allâh is a mighty reward.
(Surah al-Anfal :28)
When children act up, we may think that they are just being “naughty” but when in reality, they act the way they do because they do not know how to manage their emotions.
Know that they are not trying to challenge your authority, so do not resort to trying to get the upper hand by scolding or showing that you are angrier than them. Instead, set the example by showing them how to react in such situations; by being calm.
#3- Being firm when needed
Having said that, being calm does not mean that you let your child do whatever they want when things get out of control. Some children, for example, would hit others when they are angry or upset.
Move them to a safer space and tell them in a firm voice what they can do instead of telling them to merely stop doing whatever that is inappropriate. Say it in a “matter-of-fact” tone, without the need of shouting or scolding them.
As from the example above, when the 4-year-old began to knock things off the table out of anger, I told him, “It’s okay to cry, but do not knock these off the table.”
Alhamdulillah, for my case, he stopped doing so.
#4- Help them to understand their feelings
When your child throws a tantrum, they are experiencing feelings that they may not understand yet. Talk to them and help them name their feelings to help them understand what they felt.
Prior to any of these from happening, you can also help them identify the different emotions by talking about the different facial expressions and why we can feel the different emotions.
By doing so, they will be able to recognize whatever they are feeling and thus understand why they feel like reacting in certain ways.
#5- Help them manage the negative feelings
Let your child cry if they want to. Do not let them feel ashamed of crying when they are upset. In some cultures, for example, there is a stigma of boys crying. The people will say, “Stop crying, you’re a boy. Boys don’t cry.” Although it may seem like an innocent statement, it is something that we should not do.
Suppressing their feelings by asking them to stop crying is unhealthy. Let our boys know that it is okay to cry as long as they do not cross the boundaries of Islam.
For example, cry but do not say things that displease Allah as the Prophet (ﷺ) said,
إِنَّ الْعَيْنَ تَدْمَعُ، وَالْقَلْبَ يَحْزَنُ، وَلاَ نَقُولُ إِلاَّ مَا يَرْضَى رَبُّنَا
The eyes are shedding tears and the heart is grieved, and we will not say except what pleases our Lord
[Sahih al-Bukhari 1303, source]
Help your child manage their anger according to Sunnah. Here are some sunnah of the Prophet (ﷺ) when angry:
1- Sitting down when standing, lying down when sitting
“When one of you becomes angry while standing, he should sit down. If the anger leaves him, well and good; otherwise he should lie down.”
[Sunan Abi Dawud 4782, graded Saheeh by Al-Albany]
2- Being silent
“When one of you is angry, he should be silent.”
[Al-Adab Al-Mufrad 245, Graded Saheeh by Al-Albany]
3- Seeking refuge in Allah
“If a man gets angry and says, ‘I seek refuge with Allaah,’ his anger will go away.”
[Saheeh al-Jaami’ al-Sagheer no. 695]
Here is a poster to help teach your kids about managing their anger according to Sunnah.
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