It all begins with an ostensive injustice and in that moment, everything else begins to fall apart. Rushing through the body, fury rises to the surface and ultimately shows up with narrowed eyes, flushed cheeks and mouths forming an inverse u-shape.
These emotional outbursts are accompanied with stewed up torrents of outrage which quakes throughout the body and even beyond.
“That’s so unfair!!!”
The voice comes in with a deafening scream, fists clenched, feet stamped on the ground, things thrown all around and tears shed.
And it all happens right in front of you. But outward display of anger is not the only way people show their frustrations. Sometimes, it can be the silent treatment.
Adults do this a lot and anyone who has been on the receiving end of the silent treatment — especially when you have to guess what you did wrong — knows just how ruthlessly effective this form of emotional manipulation can be.
According to psychoanalyst Roberta Satow, resilience and self-consoling are skills we learn in childhood. “Being able to calm and console yourself is a central part of being a resilient adult, yet many people are unable to do it,” she says.
Temper tantrums show an inability to cope with negative emotions, and can even be used as a form of manipulation.
They are although common in preschoolers and primary graders, this emotional immaturity is becoming more common with teenagers and adults.
Although this is not something you should be hot and bothered about, it can be very dangerous if not managed well. Poor management of temper tantrums can worsen situations or cause repeated episodes of such situation.
Usually, most of us metaphorically cave in and do the exact opposite of what we should have done in such scenarios; yielding to the emotional blackmail and subconsciously affirming such behavior as appropriate.
However, having a much better strategy for taking quick control of explosive situations can lessen the chances of them happening again. Here are just a few smart ways to deal with temper tantrums:
The first rule is that you have to stay calm and not engage in the tantrum.
When someone close to you, be it a child or an adult friend is screaming, raging or torturing you with silence, the kneejerk reaction is usually to get emotional and be ready to fix or solve the problem right away.
You need to understand that the main idea behind the tantrum was to get your immediate response and attention in the first place. So do not play this game.
Keep yourself busy with other things and detach yourself completely. Exercise self-control, don’t get emotional and don’t engage in it.
ASSESS THE SITUATION
Ask yourself “Is the situation likely to pose some dangers”? If the tantrum is from a child, check to see if there are highly valuable things or sensitive materials likely to be destroyed in the fit of anger.
You will need to get these out of reach immediately. If the tantrum is from an adult, ascertain whether or not the person is under the influence of drugs, alcohol or threatens physical violence.
If this is so, you will have to leave the premises immediately or call the authorities. This is because extreme outbursts can be extremely dangerous.
The person is not thinking rationally and the last thing you want to do is put yourself in danger because of a childish behaviour.
TRY TO UNDERSTAND
Let us presume that the tantrum-thrower is not violent; what would you do? Empathizing would definitely be the next best thing to do in this scenario.
This is an especially difficult thing to do when you know that the other person is on the wrong and is acting inappropriately. But sometimes, compassion and empathy is all it takes to stop a full-blown tantrum in its tracks.
For example: “I understand why you’re upset about me not taking you to the party,” or, “I know you wanted me to come with you to the party, and I understand why you’re annoyed that I can’t.”
Besides making the other person feel that their concerns are valid, phrases such as these can forge open the path to dialogues and healthy conversations about emotions and boundaries.
No matter how much you show them that you understand, some people will remain adamant, pitter-pattering over the issue and going as far as giving you the silent treatment, if this happens, then it’s time to try the next tip.
Tantrum-throwers are always neither mature nor rational enough to know that their behavior is inappropriate.
Once you’ve shown empathy and it appears that the other person is open to conversation, it’s time to discuss boundaries. This is a time to express your concern by talking about what and what’s not acceptable to you.
Try to stay calm during the conversation and avoid getting emotional as this could trigger the other person into replaying the temper tantrum.
Statements like “I understand that you wanted me to take you to basketball practice but you also needed to understand that I was so busy trying to meet a deadline”
“I understand that you wanted me to help you lay the bed, but you cannot scream your head off and cuss me out.” are healthy ways to establish boundaries after a tantrum.
This has a double effect of letting them know that you understand their concerns but they didn’t go about it in the right way. If you are able to establish this, you have definitely reduced the likelihood of such episode happening again in future.
If after doing this, the tantrum still continues, then there’s one final step to take.
GIVE THEM SPACE
If there’s one thing you need to know about tantrums, it is that tantrum-throwers crave attention and manipulate you with their inappropriate behaviour.
If an adult tries to get back at you with the silent treatment and you continue apologizing and trying to reach out, it only makes the person feel more empowered while giving them the go-ahead to exhibit such behavior again in the future.
Tell them that you’ll be ready to talk to them when they’ve calmed down and had a rethink. And if the behaviour still continues, then it is time to give them permanent space.
This is difficult if you are dealing with family members or children in which case you should find a way to reduce the time spent with them to the barest minimum.
So this is it. With these strategic tips, you’re sure on the road to dealing with temper tantrums in a very smart way.