Child lays face down in shopping aisle


We Need To Be More Patient With Our Kids — Tantrums And All

Jan 29, 2020

With tears welling in her eyes, she clung to me. I was standing by the side of the pool with my pants rolled up, flip flops sliding on the slippery wet tiles unsure of what to do. The swim instructor was waist deep in the warm pool water trying to convince her to join him but she wasn’t budging.

The other kids sat on the side with their feet swinging back and forth in the water looking on, wondering what the big deal was. Parents sat on the benches lining the wall in full view of this meltdown and I stood there feeling the frustration bubble up inside of me. My face reddened, my heartbeat quickened and I started to sweat. Though I tried to remain calm, I’m sure the irritation could be heard in my voice.

This mom wants you to know the difference between a tantrum and an autistic meltdown. Read that story here.

I couldn’t understand her reaction. This wasn’t her first swimming lesson. Both of my kids had been in the water since they were months old. She was my water baby. She loved bath time — she giggled her way through parent-child swim lessons, she swam in the ocean and would jump into the pool without thinking twice. So why was she so reluctant at her swim lesson?

"This wasn’t the first or last time my kids have reacted in a way that both confused — and to be perfectly honest — embarrassed me."

In the years since that day, my daughter has become an excellent swimmer. She spent a couple of years training on a competitive swim team and can outswim me without even breaking a sweat. At eight years old, just four years after the swim lesson fiasco, she swam over two kilometres in an hour and 15 minutes without stopping. Her joy is palpable when she’s in the water and I feel blessed to witness it. Turns out, it wasn’t the water that frightened her. To be honest, I can never be sure what it is that made her so nervous. It might have been the swim instructor with his glasses, beard and deep voice. Maybe it was the pool itself, or the parents watching on the sidelines or maybe it was a little of everything. For whatever reason, she wasn’t feeling it and I didn’t know what to do.

This wasn’t the first or last time my kids have reacted in a way that both confused — and to be perfectly honest — embarrassed me. Unnecessary tears, fears, refusal to do things — you name it, I’ve seen it. But over the years, I’ve learned that the behaviour itself isn’t the biggest issue, my reaction to it is.

Do you have trouble getting your screaming child out the door in the morning? Here are some tips from the Psychology Foundation of Canada.

As a parent, I need to have more patience with my kids. Just as I’m learning to be a mother, they are learning about the world, too. They don’t have the same ability to reason with themselves, or work through their fears or insecurities. The result of kids not knowing is some kind of reaction, and a lot of the time I have viewed what transpires as an overreaction.

And it's not just me.

"Our kids aren’t trying to break us. They are simply trying to process their own feelings."

I see the judgemental looks given to the mom whose toddler is throwing a tantrum in the grocery store. I hear the whispers as someone walks around the kid who has thrown themselves on the ground. And I have witnessed the smug self-congratulation of older mothers who claim that their children never behaved in such a way when they were little.

After reflecting on my own experience, I know this: my kids are just trying to find their way in the world. These behaviours and reactions aren’t because they’re trying to make our lives harder. They aren’t waking up every morning trying to figure out how they can humiliate me in public, or bring me to tears. In fact, when I get frustrated and angry, they feel worse about themselves.

My kids aren’t trying to break me. They are simply trying to process their own feelings.

There are times when my kids don’t even know why they are afraid. They don’t have the words or the experience to express themselves. They just know that something isn’t right. So they cry and they whine and they may even throw themselves down in protest.

The Psychology Foundation of Canada offers strategies to help kids who suffer from anxiety.

As a parent, I need to take a deep breath and help them navigate whatever is going on. Anger won’t solve anything. Sure, anger might make my kids quiet, but it will add to their fears. It may bring their tears to a stop, but it won’t help them figure out how to work through their emotions.

The next time my child reacts with such profound emotion to something, I know to slow down and be patient with them. I have to remember that they are trying to figure themselves out. Then I remind myself they aren’t adults.

And if I happen to be a witness to another parent’s frustration, I stand with them instead of looking down. It could be as simple as giving them a smile, a nod or maybe a word of encouragement. Hopefully it might remind them to be patient. If anything, it will definitely make them feel as though they aren’t alone.

Article Author Natalie Romero
Natalie Romero

Read more from Natalie here.

Natalie’s passion for writing was reignited as she blogged her way through the pain of her son’s health issues and NICU stay. She is the wife of the world’s greatest foot rubber and mother to an amazingly loyal little boy and a fiercely independent little girl. An HR professional by day and a freelance writer and blogger by night, Natalie is getting a crash course in the juggling act that is the life of a working mother, though she does occasionally drop a ball or two! After spending much of her life trying to be perfect she has learned to rock her shortcomings and is not afraid to admit when she’s failed. This parenting thing can be tough and Natalie believes the best way to survive it is by keeping it real and by leaning on your tribe.

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