Menu

How I figured out what my child's tantrum was *really* about

He was crying about chicken nuggets, but it wasn't about the chicken nuggets at all.

How I figured out what my child's tantrum was *really* about

It started in the kitchen on a Tuesday night. I was frantically running around trying to get my son ready as I prepared a quick dinner for the family. We had approximately 45 minutes from the time I got home from work to when we had to leave again for our next activity.

Things were looking good for an on-time departure.

Even though my son could clearly see me in the kitchen making dinner, he wanted to know if he could have a granola bar, because he said he was simply starving. I told him no, that is snack food, and we would be eating dinner in 10 minutes.

“Well what are we having for dinner?" he asked.

“Chicken nuggets and corn," I replied.

“Okay, Mom, that sounds nice, thank you for making me dinner, I love you," he said.

Oh, wait, that didn't happen.

What he actually said was, “Whaaaat? No, I hate chicken nuggets! I am not eating that!"

This was news to me, especially since he asked me in the car 30 minutes before if he could have them.

While I tried to think of the best way to respond to him, he proceeded to throw himself on the floor and show me how upset he was about this dinner fiasco.

Then the tears came.

He was crying real tears.

Over chicken nuggets.

This is where I struggle as a parent. How do I possibly respond in this situation? I can't give in and make him something else because that shows him that all you have to do is act irrationally to get what you want. But I also can't totally get mad at him because, truthfully, he has chicken nuggets far more than he should and I would be sick of them, too.

After much contemplation, while tuning out the wailing that was still in full force, I realized that this was where my moment came in: An opportunity to practice all of the positive parenting skills I had read up on and preach about to my husband.

See, as much as I wanted to respond by yelling back or telling him to quit crying or he'll have no dinner, I knew that the tears were simply a reflection of emotions he doesn't know how to handle.

While it seemed like the most ridiculous thing in the world that my son was thrashing himself around over something so trivial, I realized what was really going on.

It wasn't about the chicken nuggets.

Maybe he had a bad day at school and that granola bar was the one thing he had been looking forward to.

Maybe he didn't want to go to the church activity that night, so he threw a fit to avoid it.

It is possible that he had been told “no" all day and this last “no" is what threw him into meltdown mode.

Or he could be exhausted—he went to bed late the night before and had trouble getting up in the morning.

Whatever the reason, I suddenly felt a deep sense of empathy for him and my initial feeling of wanting to punish him for such “tyrant" behavior subsided.

I can recall some very specific times in my life that I have wanted to drop to the floor and cry, often for the smallest of things.

In fact, just the other day I felt real feelings of anger and frustration because my husband finished off the creamer and didn't bother to tell me. When I went to grab it, I learned it was gone and I was ready to throw a fit right then and there.

And just last week I had a meltdown in my car because I couldn't get my seatbelt locked in and I was hangry and couldn't control the tears that came flooding in.

Oh, and earlier this month I attempted to make paleo pancakes that crumbled during the flipping stage so I gave up, chucked the pan in the sink and pouted like a child.

I know this feeling of overwhelming emotions all too well. Thankfully, I have learned how to appropriately handle myself in most situations. It's only taken me about 30 years to get to this point, but I still have my moments.

And I think most of us that have had those days when we are pushed over the edge because of something that seems really small. But we know deep down that isn't the case at all.

In those moments, our children need us more than ever.

They need us to teach them that it's okay to feel emotion, no matter what it is and no matter what it is about.

They need us to teach them that there are more effective ways to express themselves that feel better and make the people around us feel safe.

They need us to recognize that they are sad or mad over chicken nuggets or something else and ask why and what we can do to help them in that moment.

They need us to put our own expectations of how we think they should act aside and face the reality that there is a child in front of us that is still developing and learning and that it is our job to teach them how to handle those big scary feelings.

They need us to embrace the tantrum. The messy part, the ugly part, the beautiful part, the part that makes us want to get down on the floor and cry with them.

Because if we don't, who will?

This is our opportunity to pause and love them when we are triggered ourselves and feeling reactive.

In my case: I knelt down on the floor and wrapped my arms around my son. I told him I love him and that I knew how he felt. I told him that if he wants to talk I would be there and I would listen. Or, if he needed more time, I would give him space.

I pulled the chicken nuggets out of the oven and placed them on a plate along with the corn. I set them down next to him on the kitchen floor, walked into the other room and watched from the couch as he wiped away the tears and ate every last one of those chicken nuggets.

Sigh.

And, you know what? We still had five minutes to spare.

Products that solve your biggest breastfeeding challenges

Including a battle plan for clogged ducts!

When expecting a baby, there is a lot you can test-run in advance: Take that stroller around the block. Go for a spin with the car seat secured in place. Learn how to use the baby carrier with help from a doll. But breastfeeding? It's not exactly possible to practice before baby's arrival.

The absence of a trial makes it all the more important to prepare in other ways for breastfeeding success—and it can be as simple as adding a few of our lactation aiding favorites to your registry.

MilkBliss chocolate chip soft baked lactation cookies

MilkBliss lactation cookies

Studies have shown the top reason women stop breastfeeding within the first year is because they are concerned about their milk supply being enough to nourish baby. Consider MilkBliss Lactation Cookies to be your secret weapon. Not only are they wholesome and delicious, but they were formulated specifically for breastfeeding moms based on the science of galactagogues—also known as milk boosters. They also come in peanut butter and wild blueberry flavors.

$23

Evereden multi-purpose healing balm

Evereden multipurpose healing balm

Also up there on the list of reasons women stop breastfeeding: the toll the early days can take on nipples. Made from just five ingredients, this all natural healing balm is ideal for soothing chafed nipples, making for a much more comfortable experience for mama as her body adjusts to the needs of a breastfeeding baby.

$20

Lansinoh milk storage bags

Lansinoh milk storage bags

For a breastfeeding mama, there are few things more precious and valuable than the milk she worked so hard to pump—and it's the stuff of nightmares to imagine it spilling out in the fridge. With these double-sealed milk storage bags, you can be assured your breastmilk is safe and sound until baby needs it.

$12.50

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Nursing a baby is a 24/7 job, which calls for some wardrobe modifications. Because Belly Bandit specializes in making things more comfortable for the postpartum mama, they've truly thought of every detail—from the breathable fabric to the clips that can be easily opened with one hand.

$47

boob-ease soothing therapy pillows

Boob Ease soothing therapy pillows

For nursing moms, duct can quickly become a four-letter word when you suspect it's getting clogged. By keeping these soothing breast pillows in your breastfeeding arsenal, you can immediately go on the defense against plugged milk ducts by heating the pads in the microwave or cooling them in the freezer.

$25

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

A unfortunate reality of nursing is that it can really seem to limit the wardrobe options when you have to think about providing easy, discrete access. But by adding functional basics to your closet, you can feel confident and prepared for breastfeeding on the go.

$59

Bebe au Lait premium cotton nursing cover

Bebe au Lait cotton nursing cover

Nursing in public isn't every mama's cup of tea. But babies can't always wait until you've found a private place to get down to business if that's your preference. That's where a nursing cover comes in handy. This one is made from premium cotton and features a patented neckline that allows for airflow and eye contact even while you're covered.

$36

Lactation Lab basic breastmilk testing kit

Lactation Lab breastmilk testing kit

Curious to learn more about the liquid gold you're making, mama? The testing kit from Lactation Labs analyzes your breast milk for basic nutritional content like calories and protein, as well as vitamins, fatty acids and environmental toxins to help boost your breastfeeding confidence.

$99

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this

Shop

Is the Belly Bandit helpful for postpartum recovery?

I personally found myself wanting more core support in my early postpartum months.

My belly has been through some things.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum (yep, severe debilitating pregnancy-related vomiting), the pregnancies of each of my four kids, the 65 pounds of weight gain I have endured with each pregnancy, stretch marks, Occupational Therapy for pregnancy pelvic pain, unmedicated childbirth, and of course, postpartum recovery.

It's my personal opinion that this belly deserves some love. So starting with my second pregnancy, I've relied on Belly Bandit's postpartum belly bands (which I own in three sizes) to help support my core, reduce swelling, and begin to activate my midsection after nine months of being stretched to the max.

Here's why I love Belly Bandit:

Keep reading Show less
Shop

This viral post about the 4th trimester is exactly what new mamas need right now

"We are alone. Together. You are surrounded all the other mothers who are navigating this tender time in isolation. You are held by all of us who have walked the path before you and who know how much you must be hurting. You are wrapped in the warm embrace of mama earth, as she too settles into this time of slowness and healing."

Artist and teacher Catie Atkinson at Spirit y Sol recently shared a beautiful drawing of a new mom crying on a couch—leaking breasts, newborn baby, pile of laundry and what we can only assume is cold coffee, included. Everything about the image is so real and raw to me—from the soft stomach to the nursing bra and the juxtaposition of the happy wallpaper to the palpable vulnerability of the mother—I can almost feel the couch underneath me. I can feel the exhaustion deep in this woman's bones.

My heart feels the ache of loneliness right alongside hers. Because I remember. I remember the confusion and uncertainty and love and messy beauty of the fourth trimester so well. After all, it's etched in our minds and bodies forever.

Keep reading Show less
Life