Destructive Tantrums

A destructive tantrum can bring fear to any parent

Recently my oldest (10) had a complete meltdown. A destructive tantrum that builds in intensity,  lasts for an hour and leaves a disaster path in its wake.

Luckily no real damage was done...books were thrown, papers ripped up, chairs knocked over, little brother’s Lego creations demolished, you get the idea. These destructive tantrums are luckily rare in our household these days because we have done the work through parent coaching to be able to avoid these kinds of tantrums most days, but I also remember when this was a more regular occurrence. We’re talking a few times a week and the possibility of destruction and physical self-harm much more extreme.

I remember what it used to feel like to be a parent back then.

I remember how powerless I used to feel when my child got set off by something that seemed insignificant to me. And sometimes I had no idea what set off my child, which made dealing with my child in crisis all the more frustrating and confusing.

All of the sudden our entire household was thrown into complete chaos by one child. A child I thought was too old to be acting like this.

My husband and I would get instantaneously sucked into the chaos and become infuriated with how our child was behaving, consumed with the fear of physical damage to our house and the cost it would entail, and completely hopeless about how nothing we were trying was changing the behavior, or stopping the destructive tantrum.

I remember having to physically restrain my child from trying to hurt themself because they were in that much pain and that out of control.

I remember there were several occasions during these tsunami like destructive tantrums when I would just not want to be a mom anymore. I often just wanted someone to take my child away or I wanted someone I could call to could come over so I could leave and maybe never come back.

That was how powerless I felt. It was that hard and I felt that hopeless.

That was then...

This is now...

I know who my child is at their core. They are not a bad kid or even an angry kid. My child is a scared kid. A kid that deals with intense emotions and anxiety that are hard to cope with and every once in a while it leads to an explosion in the form of a destructive tantrum.

But my child is not the probelm.

And guess what, I’m not the problem either (neither is my husband if you are keeping score).

We are not bad parents or incompetent parents. We are parents who love our child, but completely lacked the skills needed to raise our child. A child who required more because they live with the effects of trauma and high sensitivity.

My child does not throw a tantrum and destroy my house because they want to cause damage or because they really want to make me angry. My child throws a destructive tantrum and tries to self-harm because they are stuck in a stress response in their brain that is making them fight for their life.

Like I said, these explosions are a rarity in our house now and have been for a few years. And when they happen, I am able to stay calm and ride it out (most of the time - I'm human after all).

And as soon as my child is able to accept my help to help calm down, I am there ready and able to help them calm down. My child is able to express what went wrong and then clean up the house on their own.

And the best part...

I feel really good. I don’t hate my child and I don’t hate being a mom to my child.

My child will always struggle with intense behaviors and high sensitivity, it is part of who they are.

And I now have the tools and skills needed to support my child in who they are and who they will become.

If you are where I was, I'd love to connect with you to help you find your new way.

Jen Kiss, Minneapolis and St. Paul Certified Parent Coach
Destructive Tantrums
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