Using Mindfulness To Stop A Temper Tantrum


When we think of temper tantrums we usually associate them with children. The reality is that adults have temper tantrums too. It seems like the inner child is sometimes lurking just below the surface for some of us adults which can be a nice thing or in the case of the temper tantrum can be not so nice.

When it comes to learning mindfulness, children and adults can benefit in many ways. Reducing the incidence of temper tantrums is one of the beneficial by-products of mindfulness practice for both groups. I’ve taught mindfulness to children and adults and there are many similarities to the approach I use for both of them. There are differences too and I will discuss those differences shortly.

Temper tantrums come from a place of fear. We act out this way because we are afraid of something and feel the need to protect ourselves from that fear. Unfortunately these tantrums never get us anywhere and do nothing to relieve the fear we are feeling.  When fear is present there is a tendency to disconnect and there is also a tendency to stay disconnected for long periods of time. Mindfulness directly addresses the fear by teaching us how to reconnect to our bodies, thoughts, emotions and breath. As the reconnection gradually occurs the fear subsides. I call this the biology of fear. When we are fearful our autonomic nervous system goes into fight or flight and we disconnect. When we reconnect our autonomic nervous system comes out of fight or flight and we come out of fear. Mindfulness plays a central role in accomplishing this and the core practice of reconnecting is taught the exact same way for children as it is for adults.

Adults have an additional mindful approach that they can use to reconnect thereby doing away with temper tantrums. An adult can mindfully watch for patterns in their lives. It is important to notice patterns because it gives us the option to come out of automatic pilot and introduce choice into our lives. When we come out of automatic pilot we have access to much more information and are able to make informed choices. With mindfulness training we can teach ourselves to notice the patterns that lead up to the temper tantrum and before the pattern has the opportunity to express itself as a temper tantrum we can introduce mindfulness and the pattern will gradually dissipate defusing the temper tantrum.

Between mindfully addressing patterns that lead to temper tantrums and the core practice of reconnecting to ourselves and the present moment we have two very effective approaches for adults to eliminate temper tantrums. Children do well with the core approach and find that with mindful practice temper tantrums diminish.

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