Monday, November 18, 2013

When Adults Throw Tantrums

Have you ever seen a full-grown adult have a meltdown? If you are observant, you can see adult-sized tantrums occur wherever you go, including when driving, at home, at work, in stores, in parking lots, and in restaurants. These tantrums occur when some adults don't get what they want, are frustrated, have to wait, have people cut in front of them, or others don't do what they want.

Adult-sized tantrums, in either women or men, aren't pretty. They actually make you look a bit silly and like you just regressed to a younger age. I like the saying, "You can tell the size of a person by the size of the thing that upsets them."

Tantrums can make you red-faced, throw things, scream, yell, curse, and drive unsafely. Getting into a tantrum can make you feel justified to say extremely hurtful things to both strangers and those you love. Hurtful things that are said can never be erased. The other person could always remember them.

There is a long-lasting impact of tantrums and blowing up with your loved ones. It's hard to get over it. It's very difficult to feel safe enough to be physically or emotionally close to someone you don't feel safe with. You never know when a rupture is going to happen next. It keeps the other person on guard and wary of you.

Here's something else to consider: adult tantrums usually have an audience. What is your partner, your child or teen, your co-worker, employee, or other person thinking and feeling about you when they see you lose it? It makes the adult who is throwing the fit look ridiculous.

When it's your parent who tantrums, it's very confusing and hard for young people to deal with. I know children and teens who are frightened by their parent's rage when driving, as well as anxious when parents throw things, slam doors, stomp off, don't speak to other family members for days, or call them ugly names in anger. What's a child to do about it?

Your relationship with your child is like an empathic envelope you hold them in, with much of daily life occurring on the edge of the envelope, where children push the limits and we let them out a bit and pull them back in as needed. Losing it and throwing tantrums with your child is like blowing that relational envelope to bits.

Disagreements and differences of opinion are normal and can be expressed in healthy ways. This includes sitting down with the other person, listening actively to the other person, and also expressing your thoughts and feelings. Fighting fairly can actually help you understand each other's needs better, grow your confidence that you can work through differences respectfully together, and bring you closer.

Having a tantrum, including screaming, raging, throwing things and wounding the other person with hurtful and curse words, is incredibly unskilled behavior. Instead, own that you are upset and take 20 minutes to calm yourself down before talking things out calmly. Remember, everybody gets older, but maturity is entirely optional. Developing enough of a governor to recognize that you are upset and losing control of your anger is a basic requirement for being an emotionally mature person. If you want great, healthy and close relationships, you can't afford to tantrum. The cost is way too high.

1 comment:

  1. I've never seen a more accurate post. Thank you for putting it into such wonderful words.