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10 Year Old Tantrums

by Desperate Mum
(Australia)

Hi Annie.
I have a 10 year old daughter. When she has good behavior she is the sweetest daughter. When she has bad behavior, I put her in time out.

I have told her time and time again that she needs only stay there for two quiet minutes to have a think about whatever she has done. She ends up staying there for a good 20 minutes because she screams uncontrollably as if having a fit, throws herself on the floor etc.

It is so loud, our neighbours hear everything.
I have tried smacking her, I have tried taking things off her, sending her to bed early but nothing stops her from behaving like this. If I don't put her in time out, but try the things I've just mentioned, she still has her fit.

She seems to have these fits whenever things don't go her way. I end up doing all these things just trying to get her to stop. She later apologises and I feel guilty for doing all these things.

Am I going about this all wrong?

Should I be dealing with her bad behavior in another way?

Could there be something wrong with her?

Please help me, it's affecting my relationship with her and my relationship with my husband too.

Regards,
Desperate Mum.

Comments for 10 Year Old Tantrums

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Handling Tantrums In Older Children - Part One
by: Annie Desantis

Hi,
First of all take three very deep breaths! And every time she throws a tantrum do the same. She has got you hooked into her drama in a big way and the whole situation is escalating into something bigger and bigger.

When you loose your temper trying to control her, all you are teaching her is how NOT to control strong feelings.

In a way you both need to be learning some similar skills, but the challenge as the parent, is facilitating her learning new skills as well as you modelling to her ways of communicating without having to throw a tantrum.

When you worry what the neighbours think you are making things worse for yourself. Your energy is tied up in worrying about what people think, and you are not contributing productive energy into resolving the situation, you are just trying to repress her drama so the neighbours don't think you are a terrible Mum with an out of control child! Forget the neighbours!

Your energy needs to go into getting yourself back in sync. You need to be feeling good about you, and have ways to de-stress and re-energize so you have the energy to help your daughter. If you are running on empty then you will be much quicker to over-react yourself, which as you can see contributes to her increasing drama.

Part Two Follows . . .

Handling Tantrums In Older Children - Part Two
by: Annie Desantis

It sounds like your basic idea about time out is a good one, to sit and reflect, but when we do this as punishment or do it from an angry position, then of course our kids simply react back with more frustration.

In actual fact at that point - you also need time out to get yourself to a place of feeling calm and being able to tap into resources that will be productive, rather than trying to force control.

Time out is a fantastic tool to teach our kids to use when they need to re-group. But unfortunately many parents think time out is a way of punishing children when they don't comply. It it better to help them to have it as a positive resource that they can use voluntarily when they feel they are out of their depth, or have strong feelings they want to be able to process.

There is NOTHING wrong with your daughter, but at ten years old she needs to gain mastery over her feelings so she doesn't loose control. That is actually a brain development process, and many adults have not developed the neural pathways in their brain to be able to switch from reaction - which is the reptilian part of our brain, to rational thinking.

So first of all, how do you and your husband manage your anger or frustration. Do you yell or explode? Do you say things in anger that you later regret? Our kids need to learn to feel their feelings and acknowledge them - there is nothing wrong with feeling anger, rage or frustration. But the learning is in shifting from reactionary behaviour where our feelings are running the show, to problem solving thinking.

When we punish our kids in anger, or we punish them when they are frustrated and angry and behaving badly, we may not be teaching them that their feelings are OK, but that there are better ways of expressing those feelings.

Yes, there are lots of times our kids simply have to do what we say, as parents we hold the bigger vision of what is required to manage day to day life. But we can also help our kids to deal with the frustration when things don't go their way.

Part Three Follows . . .

Handling Tantrums In Older Children - Part Three
by: Annie Desantis

The thing is not to get hooked into all the drama, she is most likely getting energy from getting you hooked in, but of course it is negative attention, and is setting up a pattern in her that to get attention she has to behave badly and keep screaming until you react back.

So there are lots of things you can do to start shifting this pattern and help her to express herself in healthier ways.

First of all, start putting LOTS more attention on the things she does well. Particularly when you notice she does get control of herself. Also make it a point to spend lots more quality time with her. The odds are she starts behaving badly because she has needs that are not being met. Kids don't just behave badly to push our buttons, though they quickly learn that is a good way to get our attention. But underneath that is a child that wants your love and approval and your total attention.

In this busy life, we get caught up in all the chores of parenting and more often than not we are only giving our kids a bit of peripheral energy. So make it a point to really stop and listen fully to her, and include her in things you are doing so you can have some time together. She can be helping you chop the salad while you talk about her day. Or stop and sit down with her when she gets home from school and spend a short time catching up when you give her your full attention.

When she is starting to act up - instead of getting angry back, stop (take those three deep breaths!) and ask her what she needs right now. You may not be available for it, or it may not be possible or suitable, but show her you are listening, and her needs are important. Then negotiate with her.

Teaching her to ask for attention or time with you, or to express herself without having to misbehave is a big learning curve. Make a time to get back with her to talk or hang out or do something fun if you are too busy in that moment. When she starts to trust that you are making it a priority to spend good quality time with her, she is likely to be able to give up a lot of the tantrums to get attention.

Part Four Follows . . .

Handling Tantrums In Older Children - Part Four
by: Annie Desantis

It is hard enough for us as adults, we often react first and think second! So making the whole process obvious is a good way to learn how to get control of her feelings, instead of them controlling her.

Notice her feelings and reflect them back to her:
"I can see you are getting frustrated, or annoyed right now" - and give her the space to vent or express herself without getting hooked into escalating the drama. If you stay calm and centred then she is not so likely to take it to the next level. This doesn't mean you give in to her, and you still may need to calmly repeat your request - "I know it is frustrating when I interrupt what you are doing to ask you to do your chores, but I do need you to set the table"

Often when we show kids we understand how they feel, they don't need to keep pushing it in our face - when we listen to them, they feel valued and accepted. Kids tend to co-operate much more when they are not just bossed around.

Share your own feelings and the process of how you gain control of your feelings:

"I'm getting irritated, I need some time out to relax and regroup before I end up getting mad."

Then take yourself off and do ANYTHING that will help you to remain calm and get back in sync with you.

When YOU have got stuck in reaction mode, it is much MUCH harder for your daughter to shift her reactions.

We often expect things from our children that we don't actually model ourselves. Do as I say not as I do, is a very common way of thinking among parents and it simply does not work.

Part Five Follows . . .

Handling Tantrums In Older Children - Part Five
by: Annie Desantis

I don't recommend punishments, I don't think they serve any useful purpose. Children need to make amends if they have messed up - and the more it is related to the incident the better. If they break or spill something, then clean up the mess, if they have been unkind, then do something caring (when they are feeling caring again! - and remember do you and your husband model this?)

Often we get angry and punish our kids because they are angry and frustrated. So opt out of the punishment mode and switch to problem solving mode. Forcing kids to comply or to behave does not teach them the skills of sorting out an issue.

When she is misbehaving you both have a problem - what do you both need and how can you find a solution together that you can both be happy with?

You may need her to do her chores, she may need some quality time with you - your job as the parent is to bring both needs out in the open and then BOTH of you look for a solution. If you get her to contribute ideas that would solve the problem, then she is learning to think rationally, and to negotiate. She is also taking ownership of the problem and will be much more likely to comply with the solution if she has contributed to solving it. So help her to express her needs, and you express yours, rather than just an order that she has to push back against.

"We have a problem, but I am confident we can find a better way to sort this out"

"Are you willing to work with me to find a solution we are both happy with?"

"It seems like you need .... to happen and I need . . . let's come up with some ideas that will get both of us what we need"


Part Six Follows . . .

Handling Tantrums In Older Children - Part Six
by: Anonymous

If you both have strong feelings and you find things are escalating - then call a halt and say "We are both getting a bit grumpy here, lets call a halt and go off for 15 minutes or until we are ready to find a better solution:"

The more you show her how to work things out together instead of just being the boss, the more you are giving her skills for life, and your relationship will improve enormously.

And guess what? These skills are REALLY useful with our husbands! Your husband is clearly finding it difficult with the tension and dramas, and may well be contributing to it all by throwing his demands into the mix, or by criticizing you.

So looking at it from a problem solving view helps you all to get into the rational part of your brain, and acknowledges you all have needs, which maybe in conflict with each other. Finding solutions that meets everyone's needs builds stronger relationships and will teach your daughter invaluable skills.

Good luck with it all, feel free to comment back or let us know how you go.

Most of all, find ways to have fun with your daughter, and enjoy your time together, that will go a long way to building bridges before she becomes an even stroppier teenager!

take care,
Annie D :)

10 Year Old Tantrums
by: Desperate mum

Dear Annie.
Thankyou so much for your wonderful advice. I am definately going to take in all of it and put it into practice. To be honest, i never looked at doing things in that way before, i feel like there is hope now for peace. I know it wont be over night, but with time and consistancy, i'm sure we will get there.
Thanks again,
Desperate mum.

Change Takes Time
by: Annie Desantis

I'm so glad you are thinking differently, we do tend to get stuck in parenting the same way, even if it isn't working!

But you are right, it does take time to implement new behaviours, and of course our kids will test and push back to try to keep what is familiar, particularly if they have had a lot of power in the situation.

But I am sure your daughter will respond pretty quickly, and particularly if she is getting some positive attention out of it all, she will soon start to respond differently.

Let us know how you go with it all!

Annie D :)

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