We all know that little kids and toddlers have tantrums, but did you know that adults have tantrums, too? It’s true. And even though we don’t typically call them “tantrums” that’s exactly what happens when we feel emotionally dysregulated.
Thinking about our own emotional dysregulation in the form of a tantrum is helpful because it connects us to our kids. We can see that it’s not them doing something “to us” or “to be bad” but instead is simply an emotional reaction.
In this episode, I share my own experience with anger, frustration, and mom tantrums in a way that shows just how helpful bringing awareness to these tantrums can be both for ourselves and for our families.
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Full Episode Transcript:
Hi there. Welcome to the Design Your Dream Life podcast. My name is Natalie Bacon and I’m an advanced, certified mindfulness life coach as well as a wife and mom, if you’re here to do the inner work and grow, I can help. Let’s get started.
What’s happening, my friend? Welcome to the podcast. I’m so happy to be here with you today. Today we are talking about Mom Tantrums. I have a really fun episode for you. Before we dive in, if you are new to the podcast or even if you’ve been around for a while and you would like the podcast directory, I created a download that has the podcasts organized by category, including the top eight to get started with. That will give you the foundation of all of the work that we do here on the podcast and at my company, Natalie Bacon Coaching in general.
So if you would like kind of a resource guide to help you find specific episodes, motherhood episodes, anxiety episodes, relationship episodes, et cetera, you can head on over to nataliebacon.com/directory and you can download that, um, pdf and save it to your phone. And it’s really easy to click on the links in there and access whichever podcast you want at, uh, whatever time. And with that, let’s dive into mom tantrums.
Did you know that as moms, we have tantrums too? It’s true. So I wanna take a step back and define what a tantrum is. I looked it up. The Google tell me that a tantrum is an uncontrolled outburst of anger and frustration. I like to also think of tantrums as emotional dysregulation. And typically we use the word tantrum to describe a young child’s emotional dysregulation or meltdown. We often don’t use the word tantrum to describe adults who are having an outburst of anger or frustration.
But today I want to offer that spin on tantrum because I think seeing tantrums for what they are, which is just an outburst of anger or frustration that’s caused from emotional dysregulation will result in more connection with your kids. Because we all have tantrums and so often we just think that it’s kids under five years old. But that’s not true. Older kids, teenagers, husbands, mother-in-laws, moms, yes, us at least if you’re like me, we all have tantrums. And I think it’s a helpful way to think about ourselves because it leads to less judgment than towards our kids when we see them dysregulated.
So instead of I can’t handle their tantrums, we’ll shift into, oh yeah, that’s that feeling of dysregulation that I know myself as well. I can handle this. It’s a very connecting experience. Instead of a, oh no, I can’t handle this. This is terrible.Something’s gone horribly wrong. Why do they act like this? Why do they do this to me? And all of those thoughts that create disconnection and of course don’t actually help with the child getting more regulated.
So what do mom tantrums look like for you said differently. What actions do you take or what do you do when you are feeling anger or frustration? It’s hard to think about this. I think because of shame, we want to kind of bat it away and give excuses or reasons that we act how we do when we’re feeling anger or frustration because it’s not our best selves, but when we hide from it, we can’t access it. So kind of the opposite of of shame is really opening up to what’s going on internally for you. If you can get really curious about yourself and separate out who you are from what you do, can you witness yourself even at your worst with compassion? Because from a place of compassion for yourself as a dysregulated human, then you can look at what’s really going on for you internally, what you’re thinking and what you’re feeling.
It won’t necessarily be that pretty to look at. And that’s okay. That’s sort of the dark, messy human part. Can you love her? Just like you love the dysregulated part of your kids, even if it’s hard in the moment, out of the moment, you certainly can have compassion for them. You know that they’re just having a hard time emotionally. The same is true for us, for you, and for me. It’s having a hard time emotionally with anger and or frustration or irritation, whatever it is for you. So think about the actions that you take or don’t take when you’re feeling that intense anger or frustration. Do you yell? Do you scream? Do you say mean things? Do you name call? Do you catastrophize, make things bigger? Do you slam doors? Do you give the other person insults? Do you try to control your environment, your home, your life, your kids, whoever it is that you’re feeling that anger about? Do you do the opposite maybe?
For some of you it might be more of the silent treatment method. Do you then thought loop in your head just kind of screaming at yourself silently? Look at that part of you that does that. Love her, have compassion for her. She’s a human having a hard time. That’s it. She’s not bad. She’s not a bad mom, she’s not a bad woman, she’s not a bad person. Can you just see her as a human being who’s having some thoughts that are having some really strong feelings in her body? And then can you have compassion for her and seek to understand her?
Ask her what she needs, tell her it’s going to be okay, that the cause of these actions isn’t because you’re a bad person. It’s not because you don’t have enough patience. It’s simply because you’re feeling a feeling like anger or frustration. And instead of processing it and going into your body and allowing it, you are reacting to it. I think this work can be so powerful. And yet, I don’t know about you, but for me personally, like I have some resistance to it. Like I know so much about feelings and anger and frustration that I shouldn’t have to do this. And I think that you get to a point in your own personal growth journey where at least for myself and a lot of my clients have experienced this, where it almost feels like I should know better. And for me and my clients, whenever I hear that or think that I know it’s a sign that I am in judgment about my humanness.
Of course, intellectually we all know better, quote unquote, we know better for lots of things that we still do. We still scroll social media, we still eat sugar, we still fill in the blank. But that doesn’t take away the part of us that is human that still does those things. So can you love that part of you without shame? Anger and frustration are harmless. Did you know that? Absolutely harmless. You can feel them in your body and allow them and do nothing. But it is a skill. It’s a skill that I think we continue to learn. And depending on your default reaction to them, it might be a skill that’s easy to learn for you, or one that takes years and decades. And it’s certainly a skill that our kids are learning. They’re born with the full capacity to feel feelings and no regulation skills.
That’s why we call their outbursts tantrums. So they’re learning how to regulate. And as adults, when you see someone who is really angry, yelling, that’s their version of an adult tantrum, they’re having an outburst of anger or frustration just because they don’t have the skill of processing that feeling. That’s all it is. It’s not because of what happened in the circumstance in their life, because we know lots of people who would react differently. It’s just because there is a skill lacking or they need to work on that skill of processing it. And the same goes for us as well. So if you think about what I teach, behind every action is a feeling. And behind every feeling is a thought. Thoughts create feelings and feelings drive actions. So if you notice yourself yelling or snapping or being short or kind of having a pity party tantrum in your mind, those are actions that you’re taking because of the feeling behind the action, because of the frustration or the anger and that it’s being caused by your thoughts.
It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have those thoughts. It doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with you for having those thoughts. It doesn’t mean that you should try to think positively. It doesn’t mean any of those things. It just means that you’re having thoughts that are creating those feelings and you are reacting to those feelings in that particular way. So noticing that this is happening is the most important step because of course, after you learn all this and you see, oh my goodness, I have mom tantrums all the time, it can be tempting to wanna go into, well, how do I fix it? How do I solve it? I don’t want to have so many mom tantrums. It’s not useful. All of that. And before you can do any of that, the most important step is to just witness yourself. Having them witness it after the fact, which is right now when you’re listening to this, you’re getting some more awareness.
Hopefully this is helpful. And then start witnessing it During it. You’ll notice yourself doing it and have compassion for yourself. Understanding what’s happening internally for you in your mind and in your body is the way out, is the way to growth. It’s not reciting positive affirmations. It’s going inward and really opening up to what’s happening. It’s kind of like if you have a GPS and you have the end destination, but you’re unwilling to type in the starting point. Most of us with mindset work and wanting to make behavior change, we want to jump ahead to the part where we’re changed and where we’re at the end destination and we hesitate to take a look at where we are right now. And you have to type in that starting point in the GPS to get the steps to go forward. You have to be able to look at yourself right now where you are and accept where you are, and then you’re able to move forward.
So what might this look like? I’m so glad you asked. I’m going to take an example from my life. Um, RJ was resisting taking a nap recently, and I was so angry about it. I would say I was having a mom tantrum since I was alone. This tantrum was all in my mind. My thoughts were something like, this isn’t fair. I need to have time to work. And he needs time to do this. Why is this happening? He should sleep. He knows how to put himself to sleep. I also need a break. And it was this variety of thoughts that just went on and on and on. And I was feeling so frustrated cause I was thinking these thoughts, they all are some sort of version of this shouldn’t be happening, right? Something’s gone wrong. So I’m resisting reality. I’m resisting what is, and the outburst that I was having, ie.
The mom tantrum, was in my head. And sometimes I think mom tantrums are like that. They’re internal. And looking at it now, I see how dysregulated I was and just noticing that that dysregulation certainly didn’t help RJs sleep and it didn’t help me either. So part of noticing what’s happening is seeing that the thoughts and feelings didn’t serve me. A lot of times negative emotion does serve us. If you have a terrible thing happen in your life like a divorce or someone passes away or a pet die, something like that, grief and negative emotion are so important for you. But when we have negative emotion like this, that’s not super useful, the best way to let go of it is to look at it after the fact and point out to your brain that it wasn’t useful. Because in the moment your brain thinks that it is useful, your primitive brain always thinks that the thoughts that it is thinking are useful or else it wouldn’t think those thoughts.
So pointing out to myself that thinking this shouldn’t be happening, that he should sleep, that this isn’t fair, that I need time to work, and that it’s for his benefit to actually sleep. All of those thoughts while they seem true, they weren’t useful at all. They didn’t help me, they didn’t help him, they didn’t help. So just seeing that and not being mad about it, but just noticing that that’s my default way of thinking is the way out of it. It’s not by necessarily practicing the next thoughts, it’s just by seeing that those are the thoughts that I’m thinking in the first place and that they’re just sentences in my head that in this case weren’t useful. So looking back at this, I really understand what was happening and that understanding makes me more compassionate for myself as a human mom and for my life and for my kids. And I think it will help in the future as well.
So I want the biggest takeaway from this episode of about mom tantrums to be awareness. Awareness that we have mom tantrums and they look different for all of us. And that the next time that you are having one, instead of resisting it or being mad about it, just watch it, notice it happening. This may be in the moment or it may be out of the moment. Typically, I think the process of growth is you notice it out of the moment a few times, then you notice it during a few more times, and then you end up noticing it before it even happens. And that’s how you stop it. So first, you’re always going to notice it after the fact and take a look at it, be willing to pull apart the thoughts, feelings, and actions from the facts. And your brain will want to excuse them away to avoid any shame.
But shame just isn’t useful. There’s nothing wrong with you for feeling frustrated. They’re just feelings that you’re feeling in your body. Frustration, anger, irritation, whatever it is, there’s no morality to them. It doesn’t make you bad or good if you feel those feelings or don’t. We all feel those feelings and we only feel them because of sentences in our head. So the way that you get access to those sentences is by taking a look at them. And the only way you’re able to take a look at them and write them down or do some sort of journaling process or what I teach in Grow You is if you don’t have judgment of them, if you’re judging them, if you’re mad that you’re having them, if you’re thinking, but I’m the mom, I shouldn’t be having a tantrum, then you won’t have access to the thoughts that are creating the frustration in the first place because you’ll be in a hurry to get rid of them.
That’s always a sign that you’re in a little bit of judgment is the hurry. Are you in a hurry to stop having mom tantrums? Instead, shift that hurry and that judgment to curiosity. Curiosity about you as a human being who deserves compassion and love and understanding. So you might have some thoughts on hand to go to instead of the judgment producing thoughts, the thoughts that provoke curiosity for you. Something like, oh, I’m having a mom tantrum. I’m feeling frustrated or angry, I’m dysregulated. This is a really big feeling. I can cope with this. And tying this back to tantrums that we typically see with our kids, I think the benefit here is seeing that tantrums are universal to humans. They are not just a product of little kids, even though we typically use the word tantrum to talk about dysregulation in little kids. Tantrums are something that all humans experience, particularly if you understand that a tantrum is just emotional dysregulation.
It’s that uncontrolled outburst of anger or frustration. And you can have a lot more compassion for your kids when they’re experiencing them, if you’re also able to have compassion for yourself. Now, as a caveat, always like to point out that compassion doesn’t mean saying yes to all actions. Compassion is for the feeling. So you wanna separate out the feeling from the action. Feeling anger and frustration is always okay, hitting, biting, you know, slamming doors, whatever kind of the boundaries that you wanna set around. Actions that of course you still want to hold in your home, you get to decide what those are. So I like to say that all feelings are welcome, all actions are not.
When you can look beneath the action of a child and see that the only way they took that negative action is from extreme dysregulation, you can have so much more compassion for them. The only reason that a child hits or bites or does something like that is from a place of feeling an enormous amount of anger or frustration or upsetness. And when you see that you can have so much more compassion for them and see the goodness in them, and you can still hold the boundary for the action. And in so doing, you can have the same amount of compassion for yourself. I coach a lot of my clients around yelling, and there is so much shame around yelling. Can you see that the only reason that you yell is because of the dysregulation that you’re experiencing underneath the yelling? And can you have a lot of compassion for yourself in the same way that you would for a child who is feeling that upset.
You deserve that much compassion for you. And you can still work on your yelling. You can still work on processing your feelings. That’s why inside Grow You. We have an entire course on processing feelings because it is a skill. You can know it in intellectually, but your body has to know it. And that takes practice. Totally doable. Totally something that I think, you know, anyone who really wants to learn can learn. I think it’s just something that most of us weren’t taught. And that’s okay. The opportunity to learn this new skill is now. And the best way to teach your kids is of course, through modeling. So if you are able to help yourself have compassion for you and model regulation and model what it’s like to feel frustrated in anger without taking inappropriate actions, that is going to be the best example that you can set. And of course, it’s going to be imperfect. And of course we have repair for that. We have apologizing and connection and all of those other tools.
So if you are having a mom tantrum, be easy on yourself. Have compassion for yourself, seek to understand what’s going on, and this compassion will spill over to the rest of your family and to the rest of your life. All right, my friends, I’ll talk with you next week. Take care.
If you loved this podcast, I invite you to check out Grow You my mindfulness community for moms where we do the inner work together. Head on over to nataliebacon.com/coaching to learn more.
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