When Does Simply Wanting to Say No Look Like a Temper Tantrum?

Often times as wee little ones, we learn that saying no is not well received by our caretakers. The word no may get punished or certainly ignored and may even be snatched cruelly away by abandoning and emotionally withdrawing love and caring attention.

Our infant self so as to be able to survive, must creatively find ways to say no that will get the best possible results. Sometimes that means to lash out, fight, get loud and possibly have what we tend to label as a temper tantrum. Think about it: might it ever be true that you considered your 2 year old trying to say no to discomfort or fear or something they do not understand, and you find yourself criticizing their brilliant attempts to communicate by labeling it a temper tantrum? There is nothing wrong about not understanding, being afraid, or wanting to do something different. How do you communicate that when you are 2 years old?Generally by using your body and voice or other times by NOT using your body or voice….going inward, shutting down, closing yourself away.

An obviously creative way is to burst into flames. Another way is to gulp down those flames and let them smolder deep inside. Either way is lose-lose. The only safe and sane way to let your discomfort be known is to discuss it carefully and thoroughly and with openness with with whom you disagree.

Something no 2, 3, 4, or 5 year old knows how to do. Mostly we don’t know how to do that very well whatever age we happen to be.

Adults who are triggered into childhood memories and lash out in anger when what is really happening is they are afraid, they are hurt or feeling misunderstood, or they do not have enough information, can feel out of control and what looks like a temper tantrum in a 2 year old, looks, in an adult, like a grown up acting like a two year old. Adults having temper tantrums isn’t all that unusual. It also isn’t all that attractive.

Another way to show displeasure, dissatisfaction, discomfort, dismay, despair, is to risk talking about what you are feeling. Finding feeling words can be a big challenge for all of us. Little girls get their words taken away from them by the age of 6; little boys get their feelings taken away by the age of 6, says Terrance Real. If that is true, and I believe it is, feeling words becomes an oxymoron.

It takes a great deal of self discipline, mindfulness, intention, and studied consciousness to refuse yourself the right to fight and insist you talk it out instead. It also takes courage and wisdom.  It is however, the only loving way to behave. Wars get started over being afraid, often afraid that there isn’t enough. Isn’t enough land, or money, or food, or fuel, or something that if you had it would help you feel powerful.

I have a stone in my consulting space that was given to me by a dear friend long ago. It says,” When the power of LOVE overcomes the love of power, the world will know PEACE.” That goes for families as well. It also applies to the two year old or whatever the actual age might be of the person having the tantrum: when you have the power to hold the frightened, angry child very very close and with tight strong arms, the child will feel safe and contained and will be able to find peace. When we find the way to hold those who view the world differently than we do, strongly and tightly and help them feel safe, we will begin to find peace for all of us.

Hugs, love, and peace, Nancy

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