The Irony Behind Much-Needed Affection

How many of you have dealt with a cranky child who's in the midst of a tantrum? If you have a child over the age of 2, I imagine all of you have experienced a meltdown or two (or three, or four...).

And, you've probably experienced the frustration and anxiety some of these tantrums can produce in you, too. There are few things more irritating that trying to soothe a child who, frankly, is really making you angry at the moment. In those times, many parents will yell back. Some will walk away. Others will try and talk to their child. But, very few will reach out an HUG their child in the midst of a tantrum. After all, who wants to hug someone who is screaming and yelling!?

But, ironically, a hug is exactly what most of my younger clients want when they feel out of control.

I've experienced the request over and over again in my practice. When I ask small children what they need from their parents when they're feeling angry, nearly all of them say a hug (or any sign of affection) would be helpful.

You're probably wondering why - and, I've wondered too. But, here's what they tell me: When they're having a tantrum, they feel not just angry at the parent, but also angry at themselves. They feel out of control. Oftentimes, they even feel unloved at that moment.

A hug, they say, reminds them that their parent loves them no matter what. And, this can sometimes diffuse a tantrum. If you're worried you're "rewarding" the bad behavior, just remember you can explain the boundaries later. Now, is the moment you need to diffuse the anger.

It works with grown-ups, too. In the midst of an argument with your loved one, the LAST thing you want to do is tell them you love them and show them affection. But, sometimes, this is just what it takes to calm things down.

Of course it seems counter intuitive to show someone affection during an angry tantrum. But, I've seen it work over and over again. And, my younger clients may have trouble controlling their anger, but they have no trouble articulating their needs!


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