The Upside of Tantrums

Rage on you Tiny Children


I just read a blog from a young mother troubled about dealing with her youngest child’s tantrums.  As is so often the case, many tantrums happen in public, and are embarrassing to parents.  It is difficult to know how to deal with them, especially when we are surrounded by a generation who think children are to be seen, not heard.

I was raised by that generation and as such, was barely seen let alone heard.  I am paying for that now.  I am afraid to voice my true opinion.  Actually, I’m afraid to have an opinion.  Without an opinion I don’t know who I am.  I know who I have pretended to be for my entire life.  I pretended to be the happy-go-lucky, undemanding, pleasing person I was trained to be.  I pretended not to feel rage or other unpleasant emotions.  I ignored my wants and needs so much that I no longer have any idea what I want or need.   I spent 25 years in a terrible relationship, in which my spouse treated me like my parents:  seen but not heard and eventually, not even seen.  I am now watching my children suffer as I divorce.

Children are not adults in little bodies.  They are 100% dependent on adults for everything.  Not just food and cloths, but love and acceptance.  If your parents don’t accept you as a young child, how can you ever feel safe in this world?  If you felt as a child that you are only loved and worthy when you are being kind, or happy, or quiet and undemanding, how can you become a capable, self aware, happy adult?  How can you ever feel worthy if you have been taught that half of your emotions are wrong?  How can you even know who you are if you are denying such an inherent part of your self?   Life is really hard when you feel this way, and there are more days then not lately that I wonder if it is worth living.  I dread my children feeling the same way.

I have 3 boys, 2 of whom had regular tantrums and one who didn’t.  The one who didn’t is currently suffering the most.  The ones who felt they could have tantrums still feel able to express themselves.  Often they express something that I don’t like, or that I find offensive or ridiculous, but they express themselves, and I listen.  When I disagree I may or may not say so, because  part of growing up is trying on all different ideas to see which fits.  If they don’t feel free to express different ideas and opinions, they can’t figure out who they are and what they really believe.

I don’t know why the one didn’t have tantrums.  Was it because he was born into a chaotic home?  Was it because he inherently knew how fragile I was as a mother?  Or was it because it is in his nature to be quiet and compliant?  I don’t know.  All I know is that he is suffering more than his brothers, and he has no outlet.  He is unable to express himself.  I’m not sure he even knows what he would express if he felt safe enough to do so.  I fear that he has denied his rage and unhappiness for so long he feels like I do – less of a person for having these feelings.

I have spent a life time feeling unsafe and unable to express myself.  This blog has helped me, but I am traveling a long road of undoing years of solitude and inability to see who I really am.  I don’t want my children to look back at the age of 54 and wonder who they really are, what they really believe, what they want out of life, and why they should even bother getting up every day.


So I say tantrum away.  Rage at the world.  Rage at the injustice of not getting the candy bar you want, at having to take a nap instead of playing, of having to go to bed or eat the vegetables you don’t want.  Learn to rage.  Learn that rage is part of life.  Rage is a basic human emotion, and it is only in having your rage accepted that you can feel free to learn who you are, and that you are worthy.

Parents, don’t be afraid of their anger.  Embrace it as a sign that they are human and not afraid.  Children have  a wealth of emotions, and they are inherently wired to express them.  It is we adults who fear those emotions.  If adults step out of our comfort zone and allow our children to feel what they feel, they will become adults willing to engage their conscious, in all the forms it takes, without fear.   They will feel free to see the parts of themselves they don’t like; the parts society doesn’t like.  They can see the good and the bad, and accept themselves as human, as flawed but ultimately beautiful and lovable.  In turn, they will do the same for their children.  They will allow them to express themselves, in all forms expression takes.

See your children for who they are, not who you want them to be.  In the end, they will become good people.  Isn’t that what we all want for them?  To be good, happy people?  Assuming that is your goal, let them be who they are.  Let them know you love all the part of themselves, and you don’t care what other people think.  You  understand wanting to rage. Sometimes you want to rage.  Maybe even sometimes you do rage!  You will help them learn to express their rage appropriately as time goes on, but you won’t judge them as failures for expressing it, and you certainly won’t shut it down.

Love all the parts of your children, even the parts you don’t like, so that they can love themselves as adults.


PS:  I know it’s embarrassing.  My advice is to gently take your raging child out of the situation, even if this means abandoning your full grocery cart.  Let them calm down, then go back to what you were doing.  I think this is what healthy adults do when they feel rage.  They excuse themselves from the situation, calm down, then go on with their lives, right?



3 thoughts on “The Upside of Tantrums

  1. Interesting perspective, I hadn’t really thought about the generational difference although in fairness I’m not analyzing the demographics of those watching as the tantrum plays out. I agree that children aren’t tiny adults and expecting them to be isn’t realistic. I wasn’t expecting to come across this post, but I’m glad I did 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t really remember my children having tantrums. There were a few times when they wanted something or wanted to go somewhere and would “pitch a fit.” I either laughed at them or ignored them. Sometimes they would threaten to “ask Loser.” More often than not, we would end up laughing about their antics.
    I never had a voice as a child or as a wife…but I made damn sure that my children did.

    Liked by 2 people

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