Dr. Hershberg is a clinical psychologist, founder of Little House Calls, author of The Tantrum Survival Guide, and the mother of two young sons.

438: Relisten: How To Reduce Toddler Tantrums (217)

Rebecca Hershberg

Tantrums are maddening, stressful, and exhausting for everyone involved. What can you do to keep your cool and help your child calm down?

Rebecca Hershberg, child psychologist and mother of two shares with us the science of development and the art of managing your child’s tantrums.

Relisten: How To Reduce Toddler Tantrums (217) [438]

Read the Transcript 🡮

*This is an auto-generated transcript*

[00:00:00] Hunter: Hey there, it's Hunter, and welcome to Throwback Thursday. Most Thursdays, we are going to re release one of my favorite episodes from the archives. So unless you're a longtime listener of the show, there's a good chance you haven't heard this one yet. And even if you had, chances are that you are going to get something new listening to it this time around.

[00:00:18] Rebecca Hershberg: It's the middle path because half of your toddler's tantrum is about not feeling heard, not feeling understood. And so if you can hear your child and understand your child, then still set a limit and still say no, but they will calm down.

[00:00:35] Hunter: You're listening to the Mindful Mama podcast, Episode 217. Today we're talking about how to reduce toddler tantrums with Rebecca Hirschberg.

Welcome to the Mindful Parenting podcast. Here it's about becoming a less irritable, more joyful parent and mindful parenting We know that you cannot give what you do not have, and when you have calm and peace within, then you can give it to your children. I'm your host, Hunter Clark Fields. I help smart, thoughtful parents stay calm so they can have strong, connected relationships with their children.

I've been practicing mindfulness for over 25 years. I'm the creator of the Mindful Parenting course. And I'm the author of the international bestseller, Raising Good Humans, and now, Raising Good Humans Every Day, 50 Simple Ways to Press Pause, Stay Present, and Connect with Your Kids. Welcome back, my friend.

Oh my goodness. These, uh, we are, we are in crazy times, and we are all home with our kids. If you're listening in the future, this is when we are in. Spring 2020, when everybody is sheltering at home because of the coronavirus pandemic. But that is not what this podcast is about, my friend. In just a moment, I'm going to be sitting down with Dr.

Rebecca Hirschberg. She's a clinical psychologist, founder of Little House Calls, author of The Tantrum Survival Guide, and mother of two young sons. And we're going to talk about how to survive toddler tantrums. I mean, if you're anything like me, these make you pull your hair out and they trigger deep, intense feelings, right?

They're, they're maddening, stressful, and exhausting for everyone involved. So what can you do to keep your cool and to help your child calm down? Rebecca Hirshberg, she shares with us the science of child development and the art of managing your child's tantrums, and I want you to listen for a few things.

So to listen for how the really important fact that we need to remember, that tantrums are normal and that we shouldn't totally expect to stop them. Wah, wah, wah. I know that's sad, but true. Listen for the development pieces about toddlers and preschools being rigid, impulsive, and egocentric. How it's, this is just part of their development.

Your child is not a sociopath. And that certain parenting styles can inadvertently reinforce tantrums. So we're going to dive into that and learn how to not do that. We don't want to do that, right? So, so yes. So I'm excited for you to join me as I talk to Dr. Hirshberg. And before we dive in, I just want to quickly let you know that the Mindful Parenting membership is going to open soon.

The membership, of course, um, includes the eight module groundbreaking Mindful Parenting course that is transformative and, um, this membership, uh, round we are going to be opening up for scholarships. We'll be opening it up for scholarships before the general membership opens. So if you are curious about that.

Make sure you are on my email list because I'll be sending an email about that. And we'll be doing a free training from March, I'm sorry, May 6th through 11th, where you'll be learning how to stop yelling, why your child doesn't listen to you, how to create cooperative kids, cooperative kids without losing your temperature, temperature, your temper and more.

So everyone is welcome to the Mindful Parenting free training. I even know Mindful Parenting members do it again because it's just such a great Um, reminder of some really important fundamental facts about kids and development and parenting, and you can join that@mindfulparentingcourse.com slash freetraining.

That's mindful parenting course.com/freetraining. And, uh, I hope to see you there. This is a really good one to share with your friends. Of course. So, I think that's it for announcements. I hope you are safe and well, and I hope that this podcast helps you through your never ending endless Groundhog Days with your children these days.

All right, let's dive in. Join me at the table as I talk to Rebecca Hirschberg. Rebecca, thanks so much for coming on the Mindful Mama podcast.

[00:05:18] Rebecca Hershberg: It's, it's my pleasure to be here. I love it. So really happy to actually be a guest on it.

[00:05:24] Hunter: Well, I'm, I'm thrilled because, you know, as I, I, I said to you, I, I have, sometimes I get parenting books just flow in the mail to me now because of the Mindful Mama podcast and I had a little resistance to reading the Tantrum Survival Guide.

Um, and then I dove in and it's so readable. And it's so right on. And I was just like, I just got an hour and a half, like sucked away, like pleasantly, like enjoying and circling and underlying and having a good time. It's great. 

[00:05:53] Rebecca Hershberg: Well, thank you. That is the highest compliment I've ever heard from a busy mama.

Um, I appreciate it. Thank you. Thank

[00:06:02] Hunter: you. Um, so, so yeah, so you, you, there are so many things in here I want to dive into and I'm, I'm really excited about this, but we, we want to talk about, I think, where, where you, you start with your book, which I think is so important. Tantrums are normal.

[00:06:20] Rebecca Hershberg: Yes. Tantrums are normal.

They are expected. Um, you know, whenever I see headlines on the parenting blog, you know, stop tantrums in their tracks or five ways to stop tantrums. It's always. You know, my reaction is no, we, we, not only is that an impossible task, but it's not one that we would want. They are actually a healthy sign of development.

We can, as I talk about in the book, decrease their frequency, their intensity, their duration. There are times we can tell, um, our kids are out of sorts and having many more tantrums than, than we might want, but generally it's, it's a really healthy, normal part of development. All right.

[00:07:00] Hunter: Yeah. And that's what I've always kind of come to understand coming around the other side of it when it wasn't in the, like, pulling my hair out and wanting to, you know, die in the midst of the tantrums.

But yeah, that it's a big emotional release for, for kids who their brains aren't developed yet. And you talk a lot about this, about the brain development as well. But you also, before we talk about the brain development, you, you talk of some. Many parents are often really pretty convinced that their child's tantrums are not normal, like, but you haven't seen my kid's tantrum, and I, I know you get a lot of messages like this.

So, just to be really clear, what is within the realm of normal, and you also talk about five possible red flags, so I think this is important to, to get out there too.

[00:07:51] Rebecca Hershberg: Yeah, so, so unfortunately, I'll just start by saying in case people are waiting with bated breath, unfortunately, there's no formula. There's no, you know, well, if you're, if your toddler is having this many tantrums a day that are this long, then that's nothing to worry about.

But then there's a threshold we cross and suddenly it's worrisome. It's not unfortunately. You know, somewhat obviously that simple. For the most part, um, just anecdotally, the majority of people who have told me that I've never seen tantrums like the way their kid is tantruming, um, that is generally not the case.

We all respond extra powerfully to our own child's tantrums in part due to evolution and the fact that our child's cries and shrieks are supposed to get us. All worked up. Um, and so they seem so much worse. Um, that said, we do look when, when I'm doing an assessment to see is this A general, you know, expected type of tantrum or might there be other concerns and other concerns don't mean, by the way, um, horrific things coming down the pike.

It just means there might be, let's say, a sensory issue or some stress or, or whatever it is. Um, I'm going to look at duration, so I'm going to look at is the tantrum often over 25 minutes. Um, not once in a while, um, and not when your child is sick or hasn't slept, um, but is it often more than 25 minutes.

And I will always encourage parents to set a timer because when it's your own child, you will swear that it's been two hours and it's only been, you know, 10 minutes.

[00:09:26] Hunter: Oh, true. That's where all our ethics stories come from.

[00:09:30] Rebecca Hershberg: Exactly. And we can, it's often, if you, if you remember like that horrible tantrum that your kid had, then chances are that was an outlier.

And that's kind of the point. You know, it's like, Oh, what about that one at the airport that was two hours long? And right, there was that one at the airport. And if that's happening all the time, then there might be a reason for concern. Um, true inability for a child to self soothe sort of at all. Um, so a lot of times when kids are left to their own devices, not, you know, a hundred percent ignored and ideally in the presence of a loving adult, but still not necessarily with any major intervention, kids can can pull themselves together, um, after a certain period of time.

And there are kids that really cannot at all, and then it just gets worse and worse and worse. That might be something to worry about. Um, aggression happening more, uh, frequently and severely than is normally expected. So again, some hitting. Some scratching, once in a while biting. That's all pretty much within the realm of normal.

[00:10:38] Hunter: Sorry. A lot of us worry that, you know, I might, my child doesn't see anyone hitting. Why are they hitting? But that's. That fight, flight, or free stress response is fight, right? 

[00:10:47] Rebecca Hershberg: That's a big part of that. Exactly. And also just, I don't have the words and I'm saying, you know, we all, when we are angry or stressed or upset, we have things that we can do, even if we don't have the words for it.

We, you know, frankly go for a run or, you know, there are ways we let our, out our physical energy when our physical energy is being impacted by our emotions. And our kids need to do that too. They just don't know the, you know, quote unquote socially acceptable ways to do that. Um, and so, but again, if your child is often scratching or biting or, or hitting again in a real sort of destructive way, not, um, I want another cookie and so I'm going to, you know, push you.

Um, you know, that's an important line. Um, Frequency, and I don't remember offhand, frankly, the, the number, um, and you, you have the book in front of you, but it's, it's something, you know, really, really high if it's more than, you know, a few a day, every single day in a period of a month or something like that.

And also kids who have a lot of tantrums, um, Outside of their home and with adults other than the regular caregivers. Um, it's counterintuitive. A lot of times parents will say to me very upset, you know, my child only is like this with me. Great at school. They're great at their mommy and me class. They're great, you know, um, and that's actually.

That's a positive sign as much as it's not a fun one. When your child is having just as many tantrums or, um, more tantrums with more unmuch familiar adults and in outside settings, that's potentially a problem.

[00:12:25] Hunter: So because kids are, they're doing a lot of work to hold it together in those outside places and then with us, they're feeling comfortable, loved, and accepted, so they can let loose.

[00:12:38] Rebecca Hershberg: That's the idea behind that, right. And just exhausted, that's the other piece is that they're working so hard that they just, they know they don't have to work hard, which is what you're saying, and so then they, and then they're exhausted, and it used to be that there was this real misconception, um, that I just want to correct for anyone who may still hold on to it, it was a misconception that, well, my child doesn't do this in other places or with other people, so they clearly know what they're doing.

Oh, like a manipulative thing. Exactly. And that's just no longer the way, you know, a lot of times the older generation still say things like that. And that's just no longer the way we think about it. We think about it as kids who, again, feel more comfortable at home, but not even in a conscious way, per se.

It's not like, Oh, I'm home from school. I can fall apart now. It's just that. They work hard to keep it together and they learn early on where it's most necessary to do that. And then they're exhausted and they let it out at home. And in part, that's what we model. You know, we, we, you know, even if I was on a really, in a really bad mood right now on this podcast, I wouldn't start, you know, Biting your hood off.

Rude and inappropriate and, you know, ridiculous so much so that you're laughing. Our kids learn that really early on. No, they're not going to show that necessarily in school or out with their nanny or their, um, so that's just important to keep in mind.

[00:13:58] Hunter: Very cool. So, dear listener, It's normal. It's normal.

I know it sucks. It's normal. We're all, we're all going through this or have gone through this and, and, and, and some of us have had vasectomies so we won't go back. So tell us about the, I would love for you to dive into the brain development because this is so fascinating because when we can understand it.

Just as we, we understand just what, you know, what you were explaining right there, it makes it all so much less personal. We stop making it about us or about my child in particular, but this is just how the brain development develops. And you say that parents are really overestimating our kids capacity for self control. So tell me a little bit more about that.

[00:14:44] Rebecca Hershberg: Yeah, so that's certainly something anecdotally that I see all the time. And when there was a study a couple of years ago done by the zero to three foundation in conjunction with the Bezos foundation, where they surveyed, you know, thousands of parents of all different socioeconomic backgrounds and ethnicities around the United States and found that over 50 percent of parents were way overestimating specifically their two and three year olds capacity to inhibit their impulses and specifically not to be aggressive.

So, in other words, as parents, we expect that our two and three year olds are not going to be aggressive and are going to be able to control their impulses when they're upset, and typically that's not the case. The way the brain develops, it, it, when we are born, the, the most primitive part of the brain Those neural connections are already there, so the parts of the brain that allow us to breathe and blink, um, and even experience some very basic emotions, love, disgust, that's all there very, very early on, and then the parts of the brain devoted to emotion, so the amygdala, the Um, and, and those brain centers develop, and so you've got your kid experiencing really strong emotions.

And the last part of the brain to develop is the cerebral cortex, and when I say develop, again, I mean the neural connections, and specifically the prefrontal cortex, which is the part of your brain that's right in the front and that's thought of as the air traffic control center. I love that analogy, Maggie.

[00:16:18] Hunter: We have to talk about that

[00:16:19] Rebecca Hershberg: more. Yeah, it's um, and it's not mine. It's from the Harvard Center on the Developing Child. And it's basically, you know, if your air, if your air traffic control center is not yet developed and you still got airplanes, you know, coming and going, there are going to be crashes and it's going to be crazy.

And because the prefrontal cortex is devoted to executive functioning and executive functioning is things like impulse control, judgment. Reasoning, all of, all of those, um, holding, you know, sustained attention. And those parts of the brain are not developed fully, and brace yourselves parents, but they're not developed fully until you're in your early twenties, but they're certainly barely developed when kids are young.

And to the extent they are developed, and this is a really important piece, they are not online to use. a colloquial term, but they're not online when we are feeling highly emotional. And parents will say that a lot. Parents will say, for example, you know, my son completely understands that it's not okay to hit his sister.

We talk about it. He knows that it hurts. He knows that, that Using your body instead of your words is not okay, and then his sister will come take something he's playing with, and he'll smack her in the face, and the answer is right, because as soon as he feels that frustration, or that anger, or that jealousy, or whatever it is, all those cognitive skills disappear, and he's being ruled by emotion.

And just understanding that that's, again, inherent to the toddler brain and the young child brain really helps, as you said, understand why your child seems to have this disconnect, the disconnect is real. The parts of the brain are not yet communicating with each other in those moments. Um, as adults, we experience that sometimes as well.

Yeah. Yet, we can usually bring our brain to communicate, you know.

[00:18:35] Hunter: We've had, we've had a lot more practice with it, but you know, that's what I teach all the time to parents who are frustrated when they're losing it. It's like, Yes, those emotional centers, that amygdala is literally kind of bypassing that prefrontal cortex. So, you're not able to access all those, you know, you may know you don't want to yell and you want to use your quiet voice and you want to use these new communication skills you've learned.

And it takes a lot of intention and practice to be able to bring all those things online when you want them to, because that, you know, that, that amygdala, that's much faster. Then, then the executive function. Yeah.

[00:19:14] Rebecca Hershberg: And if you think about surviving, it needs to be the, the fastest acting. Um, but I, you know, we have the capacity somewhere in there.

The toddlers and the little kids don't even have that capacity. And I often joke when I'm giving talks, you know, I'll, I'll. Tell someone, you know, someone will raise their hand to ask a question and I'll ask them to repeat the question back to me in Japanese. Typically, it's not someone who speaks Japanese and they'll sort of look puzzled and I'll say, again, no, I want to hear it in Japanese and you, you know, I don't let it go on too long, obviously.

The idea is this, this puzzlement and this frustration of, no, you're asking me to do something that I cannot do. And so where do we go from here? And obviously if I were to let that go, the person would get incredibly frustrated and angry and potentially even walk out and leave the talk. That's what we are doing with our toddlers.

When we say things like, use your words, use your words, or why do you hit your brother? Why do you hit your brother? Come on, why? Why? Why do you hit your brother? I cannot answer that question. They maybe will make something up in the moment because they know that they're supposed to do it. Um, but usually those types of approaches really just makes things worse because we are highlighting and demanding our child do something that they are not developmentally capable of doing.

[00:20:34] Hunter: Yeah, so we're, we, in some way, we kind of hope that we're teaching them, like, use your words. It seems like a nice, seems like a good thing to say, right? But it's, they're just incapable of this. So it, probably makes things ultimately, ultimately worse. So what are, what are some of the causes of tantrums? Why, why, why now?

And what's, what's happening? Right.

[00:20:57] Rebecca Hershberg: So, so, um, so I opened the book actually with an example, I think, of, of a child in a supermarket who wants more cookies, which is sort of prototypical, you know, ripe for a tantrum situation. And. I sort of say that you are an onlooker and you are watching this toddler in the cookie aisle fall apart because his mom is not getting or his dad is not getting him Oreos.

And certainly you could say the proximal cause in that moment is that he is not getting the thing that he wants. But what if you found out that he had skipped his nap? Well, then you've suddenly got tiredness as a result. And what if you then find out that he just got a new baby sibling four days ago and this is his first one on one time with his parent?

And that's a potential cause, all the emotions behind that. What if mom or dad is always anxious in supermarkets? because they have social anxiety and so they're never quite as connected as they want to be and that's activating for a kid. So in other words, you really have to start small but then look globally and sort of contextually, um, at why the child might be having a tantrum.

So tantrums are caused, first of all, as we said, by sort of the stage of brain development. Second of all, I like to highlight that they are an interaction. So whoever they're with at the time is contributing as well. Then there's all kinds of very basic things that we know, hunger, tiredness, you know, any kind of stress on the symptom over, um, the system, excuse me, overstimulation, um, sensory overload, all that stuff, and then you know, global context.

And I, you know, I have to mention right now, we are all stuck at home due to current events. Um, it's a bit, in many families, not all, a bit of a powder keg. And little children don't have the capacity to say, wow, this is new and stressful and I'm confused and I'm uncertain. And instead they will have their behavior be dysregulated.

And so there's a misconception that. Tantrums are always about not getting something I want, or when my dad says no. Um, that might be on the surface, you know, what is actually setting off the behavior. However, these deeper emotional issues, um, anxiety, sadness, confusion, change of routine, uncertainty as to what's happening, all will contribute most likely to more tantrums, because that's how children express their strong emotions.

[00:23:39] Hunter: And you actually recommend that parents go back to a recent tantrum and kind of dissect it and figure out what were some of the, some of these many causes that could be contributing to it. And you call it the, the chain.

[00:23:53] Rebecca Hershberg: The chain analysis. Yeah. It's a, it's a term from, um, DBT, which is dialectical behavioral therapy, Marsha Linehan.

It's basically cognitive behavioral therapy with some mindfulness thrown in, although anybody who really practices it will. Again, offended at how simple that description is, but essentially it's this idea of looking at, originally it started with self injury, with clients who did a lot of self injury, doing a chain analysis, which means looking at what was happening, you know, way before, what, you know, what were the links in the chain essentially that led to this incident.

And so the links can be, again, what was the How much sleep had your child gotten? How much sleep had you gotten? What mood were you in? What mood was your child in? Had you done anything unusual that day? Really looking at, and the book lays it out, but what are all the different possible links in the chain that led us to this particularly difficult tantrum?

And I recommend that parents do that, not because there's always going to be something you could have done differently or changed, but because patterns, if you do that for more than one tantrum, or if you do that at a time that tantrums really seem to be escalating, you often end up making a discovery that you might not have realized at first about why, you know, what's going on right now that's different.

Uh, sometimes it's, yeah, I didn't sleep. I didn't, I haven't slept for the past, you know, or I haven't slept well for the past four nights. My toddler's having a lot more tantrums. I bet it's because I'm a little bit short with my toddler cause I haven't slept. Maybe if I try sleeping more tonight, the tantrums will improve. That sort of connection. 

[00:25:33] Hunter: Yeah, making those, it's beautiful because that's, uh, in the Mindful Parenting course I teach. I, I encourage people to track their own triggers for their own tantrums, right, for, for our, you know, and we can do the same thing with our kids just to have more awareness, more understanding so we can, we can say, help.

Figure out those, those links in the chain. I love that. And you, you talk about how certain parenting styles can inadvertently reinforce tantrums, so I think this is really important for us to know. We will all, every listener wants to know, Oh my gosh, am I doing the right things, saying the right things?

So what, and, and I really appreciate that. Um. You really take, uh, and, and what you teach in, in, um, in the Tantrum Survival Guide is the middle path, which I think is beautiful, emotionally. So tell us about the parenting styles that can reinforce tantrums.

[00:26:31] Rebecca Hershberg: So, There's sort of two main, I mean, there's, there's two main things I would say there.

One is when we inadvertently reinforce tantrums by giving them a lot of our attention and giving them more of our attention than we do when our child is not happy. So I've worked with several families and, and let me just stop here to say that none of this is said with any judgment. Everyone is handling a lot of different things and doing the best they can.

So this is. It's more that it's helpful to have it pointed out so that you can see it if you didn't see it yourself. Um, but I've worked with a lot of families who, when we really dive deep, we realize that their child gets more attention when they're having a tantrum than when they're sitting and playing.

Um, and that's because tantrums are hard to avoid. They are super loud. They are potentially destructive. They are distressing. Um, and so a parent who might otherwise be on his or her phone, um, or trying to get some housework done, or cooking a meal, whatever it is, will have to drop, or, or one common one is paying attention to assembling, um, will have to drop everything to pay attention to the Tantra, and that kids learn it.

Again, not in a manipulative way, not in a conscious way, but they learn this is how I get my mom's attention. And so if we can shift that and start to really give more attention in an intentional, mindful way to our kids when they are emotionally regulated, when they get frustrated and don't have it, right?

Wow. Did you, I sent this to my son literally yesterday. I said, when I said that you had to turn your iPad off, you just grunted. Give me a high five for the grunt because you didn't shriek, you didn't throw it, you didn't, you know, I mean, it's like really emphasizing these baby steps toward emotion regulation.

The other thing that I think really can unfortunately inadvertently increase tantrums is when we respond without any understanding or empathy to what are often very big deals to our kids. So, back to the Oreo example, I have Oreos on the brain clearly, um, you know, if, if a child wants another Oreo and we respond rationally like, well, you already had two, you can't have enough and they start amping up, but I want, you know, but I want one, I want another one and we stick, we're very rational.

No, you've had two, you've had two, that doesn't mean anything to it. If we go even further with it, as parents sometimes do, again with the best of intentions, enough. You had two, you had a dessert yesterday, you're having dessert for dinner, we're not, you know, and getting sort of annoyed at this demand. The fact is your toddler doesn't understand nutritional information, your toddler doesn't understand that all the Oreos in the

They don't have a sense of time and space. And so to them, they really, really are getting increasingly frustrated that here's this whole package of Oreos and you're telling them that they can't have them. And so just acknowledging that, sweetie, I know there are so many Oreos here. I know you saw the whole package and you want just one more.

And I'm saying, no, that stinks. I can see on your face how much you want another. You know what? I wouldn't even, if I were you, I wouldn't even want one other cookie. I'd want a hundred of them, you know, and, and, and to play with it and connect over it. There's such an opportunity to connect with your child if you don't see it just as black and white, um, which is funny because we're talking about Oreos, but, um, um, you know, if you don't see it just as I can either give in and give another Oreo, or I can just tow the line and keep saying no over and over and over.

And it's the middle path. It's the middle path because. Because half of your toddler's tantrum is about not feeling heard, not feeling understood. And so if you can hear your child and understand your child, then still set a limit and still say no, but they will calm down that much faster. Yay.

[00:30:48] Hunter: Uh, man, yeah, that reflecting back, like that's the step we skip over so often.

We just want to solve it, make it go away. We don't want to reflect, like, that whole piece and it, and I, being seen and heard is so, so huge. It's amazing. So, you also talk about how, how toddlers have the, These five characteristics, and it's really, I think this is really important to understand why toddlers in particular are so prone to this, to tantrums, and these five characteristics, again, having to do with their development, um, and, and so, um So yeah, so this Go ahead, take it away, Rebecca.

[00:31:34] Rebecca Hershberg: Yeah, no, I, I don't want to go with this. I got this. Yeah, so I referenced the other one before, which is this sort of, um, formally called egocentrism, um, which basically means that toddlers brains prevent them from being able to see other perspectives. And so they do not understand, for example, when you're in the supermarket and you won't buy them a candy bar, why would the candy bars even be there if it weren't for me right here and right now?

Because I don't understand that there are other people out there that have needs. Um, and we treat our toddlers as if they are fully socialized human beings who understand generosity and selfishness. And, and, and so we interpret that as selfish or greedy or whatever it is. And it's. It's against me taking it personally, it's just not.

Um, they have only their own perspective. There's a great, um, research study and I think it shifts at about age four. where kids develop something called theory of mind. So if you have, for example, a bag of Pepperidge Farm goldfish, and you fill it with, and you do this in front of a young child, And then you say, you know, your mommy is going to come through the door.

What do you think she is going to think is in this bag? And little kids up until about four will say, well, she'll think peanuts are in it because they do not understand that anybody else could have knowledge or information that they don't have. Whereas then they reach an age that they'll say, oh, she'll think it has goldfish in it.

I know it has peanuts in it because I saw you put the peanuts in it, but the outside It's clearly a goldfish bag, and so she feels like it's goldfish. And when that happens, a world of opportunity opens up. But before that, again, think about how confusing the world must be in some ways, when you really think you're the only person in it.

And yet people are constantly telling you that there's reasons you can't have things.

[00:33:42] Hunter: It's so infuriating.

[00:33:45] Rebecca Hershberg: It's infuriating. What do you mean I can't have this? It's, it's here. It's in front of me. What do you know? Uh, yeah. And they're in the present moment. Exactly. They're very in the present moment. So that's one.

Another one is rigidity. Well, I'm sorry.

[00:33:59] Hunter: Go ahead. Hedlund, can I go back to egocentrism for a second? Because I think that's so important to understand also too that this, this egocentrism, like the word, Uh, the, we have a little baggage, I think, around the word egocentric, right? We use it to mean all these very negative things.

But it really just means what Dr. Hertzberg is saying. Like, that they can't understand that there are other people. But, at the same time, Um, little kids can have empathy too for other people's hurt feelings. So I wouldn't, and I've seen this in my clients in my course that kids, little kids as young as two can have, you know, can say, Oh, I didn't really, you know, they didn't, they didn't finally realize things affected their mommy that way.

Um, and it's an important distinction that you would only think about in a conversation like this because the word empathy is used. Typically to cover all of it, but there is a distinction between having empathy in terms of seeing, for example, on the playground or when I'm going to see another kid cry, and then knowing that that person needs your help is a different developmentally from really being able to change.

Yeah. So, so for example, I remember so clearly because it was, as I was writing the book, saying something to my older one who at the time was, you know, only three or so. But he asked me for something, you know, this always happens with parents, like if you're holding 25 things and then your kid says, can you hold this for, but this was something where he was doing something, I was doing, I think, 10 things at the same time.

And he said, well, you know, I want a snack or whatever it was. And I said, Does it look like I'm doing anything? Sort of sarcastic. Does it look like I'm doing anything? And he looked at me and sort of completely, you know, and he said, Yeah. So, you know, like, one did like, okay, you know, and that's the egocentrism.

It's like, yeah, I get that you're doing other things, but I have a need. And so that obviously comes first. Um, and that's the piece that, that is missing and that isn't, and that then respond to in that infuriated way can create.

[00:36:01] Hunter: Yeah, it's not, it's not personal. It's not that your child is a sociopath either.

They're also impulsive and rigid. Tell us about that.

[00:36:11] Rebecca Hershberg: And just to the personal piece, I say, I did not make up the acronym, but it's helpful to so many parents. The acronym Q TIP, which is Quit Taking It Personally. Um, and just to have that, you know, hanging on your wall. Oh, I like that. But they are rigid and impulsive.

Yes. So again, we overestimate our children's abilities to control their impulses. And that gets back to the example of when your child hits his sibling or when your child, um, sees the fancy glass bowl and picks it up, even though he's been told a million times not to, for which my suggestion is always move the glass bowl.

Yes. But sometimes parents say, no, but he should know. I've said a million times, don't touch it. And again, he does know that doesn't mean he can manage his impulse when the sun hits it in a particular way and it looks shiny and awesome. And so that again, just recognizing no matter what your child knows cognitively, that impulsive piece is there.

And it's not that they're. Actively disobeying you, you know, I hear that a lot. I've told him not to run, um, he's clearly, you know, disrespecting me, um, which is such a personal interpretation of, no, he's running because he just wants to run and the part of his brain devoted to managing that impulse is not developed.

The rigidity piece is so interesting. I have parents ask me all the time if their children have, you know, OCD and, and that can develop very early on, but it is much, much more rare than parents think. Um, because little children are rigid because they are learning that the world is very big and unpredictable and that they don't have a lot of control in it.

And so they really try to exert control. Over, over smaller states and exerting control may mean that the potatoes cannot, under any circumstances, touch the chicken. Or when you read this story, you have to read it in the exact same character voice every single time and you cannot leave out a word because that, you know, and, and kids will throw tantrums over those sorts of things being altered.

And again, because tantrums are interactions, parents will get increasingly frustrated. It's barely any chicken touching barely any potato. Come on, you know. Um, it's scary. You're scaring me, Rebecca.

[00:38:47] Rebecca Hershberg: I've seen a lot of parents saying, I've been one too. But, uh, but yeah, so that rigidity piece, again, if we understand where it's coming from and how it fits into the developmental trajectory, then we can have a lot more patience for it and tolerance for it, which is the key to decreasing some of these tantrum enter.

[00:39:14] Hunter: Stay tuned for more Mindful Mama podcast right after this break.

Yeah. Then we can take our side of the equation out of it. Our anger, frustration. I mean, if we can understand that this is just all brain development, this is no one's fault. There's no one's faults here. This is nothing to worry about. And let's, I love it. Q tip. We're going to Q tip baby. Quit taking it personally.

[00:39:42] Rebecca Hershberg: And also, and just to have patience with yourself because we are taught not to interact with people that don't have fully developed prefrontal cortex. I mean, if you told me, you know, if you said, Hey, Rebecca, I, I, I have a friend I'd love for you to hang out with her. She's impulsive, she can be aggressive, she only thinks on herself, she's incredibly rigid.

Um, I think you guys would get along great. How about dinner? I would love that. And me, and, and yet that's what our children are like. And so it's Please forgive yourself for not immediately having tolerance. You know, we have to train ourselves to see it for what it is because of course our instincts are very appropriately No, this is not okay.

[00:40:30] Hunter: Yeah. Yeah. We haven't practiced all our lives. This is totally something new that, you know, you don't encounter anywhere else in the adult world for sure. Um, unless you're in a very rare exception. So, um, I want to talk about how to, how to deescalate them and there's so many things I'd love to talk to you about this, but let's talk about how, how, how, what are some of the things that we can do to deescalate tantrums?

[00:41:03] Rebecca Hershberg: So, de escalating tantrums, I think, when we talk about, we have to think about where we are in the timeline of a tantrum, um, because how you prevent or de escalate really depends on that. So, for example, um, if you are heading into a situation that is ripe for tantrums, like a supermarket or a big box store, there's so much you can do before you even are in that situation to sort of get ahead of it.

Um, you can let your child know the expectations that you have in the store. You can come up with games and contests and whatnot that you can play while you're in the store. You can use physical touch, hold your child's hand. I mean, there's, there's a lot of ideas in the book and I can go through them specifically, but, but first the idea is just that.

So much of that is before a tantrum has even emerged.

[00:42:00] Hunter: So, like, plan for this. Don't Yeah. You also mentioned our expectations. Like, we shouldn't expect that kids are gonna be able to necessarily hold it together. That, that, that is, that expectation is kind of leading to our own resentment. 

[00:42:15] Rebecca Hershberg: Right. Right. So, I think there's having, there's Trying to have clear and realistic expectations and then, and then exerting agency because we all know that once the tantrum is in, in full speed or full form, there isn't actually a lot we can do.

And we do feel very helpless and potentially if we're out and about, embarrassed or, you know, and I would argue we have to learn to tolerate those feelings and get through them, but we do have a lot of agency beforehand. And so anticipation is, you know, potentially one of our greatest. Even just paying positive attention to your child.

We're going to go to the supermarket and I'm going to engage my child in tasks of picking things out or finding different colors in the store or if they're learning record, um, excuse me, letters, pointing out, you know, just engaging your child and giving your child the attention. is going, the likelihood for tantrums.

And so just using those types of tools or, um, people often say, why does my toddler always have a tantrum when we're with extended family, when we're with my parents or my in laws? Um, a lot of times it's because you yourself are on it. You're waiting to be judged. You're acting a little bit different in your parenting style than you do at home.

And that's disconcerting for your child. When children feel a little disoriented or disconnected from you, they're more likely to have tantrums. And so again, really thinking through proactively and intentionally, where is it that my child has the most tantrums and how can I get ahead?

[00:44:00] Hunter: Stay tuned for more Mindful Mama podcasts right after this break. We are supported by CauseBox. I just discovered my favorite subscription. It is so fun, especially in this time of the season. Sheltering at Home Time, CauseBox. I need to tell you about it. It's a quarterly, four times a year subscription box curated by women for women that is filled with all sorts of amazing products and brands that are ethical, sustainable, and have a positive mission to give back and make the world better.

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Okay. And so we, we could look back at them, we could say, when are they tired? When are they hungry? Kind of go through that checklist, make sure you've had a snack, all of those things. And then are there, and you, you have ideas for as the sort of tantrum is starting to ramp up. 

[00:46:25] Rebecca Hershberg: As it's starting to ramp up, again, if you can empathize, but often, again, because there's a thing the child is upset about.

which is then closely often followed by their reaction at not being heard or understood. So to use empathy, even if you don't necessarily feel it, ideally you get to a place where you feel it and sniff out authenticity and inauthenticity. However, knowing that this is a tool you can use pragmatically. Um, so the empathy, you can absolutely try to redirect, try to use some humor, use some playfulness.

Um, I think all of those strategies really can work as the tantrum is mounting. I mean, back to the example of my son with the grunting, um, if I had handled the grunt in a different way, that grunt might've very much led to a tantrum, right? And grunt is, is often a sign that there's something coming down the pipe.

Um, and so just looking and also being aware, I know when, when, um, parents who choose to potty train, you know, a lot of times they use a method where they look for what does my child do when. when they have to pee, you know, like what's my child's peepee dance? Um, and this is like, what's my child's tantrum sign?

You know, is it a grunt? Is it that they start whining? Is it that they start sort of banging their head a little bit? You know, what are those signs and can you then kind of really bring on the empathy, the positive attention, the cuddle, you know, sometimes just a giant hug, that sort of thing. 

[00:47:57] Hunter: So this is where, as it's ramping up, we're seeing that, so those signs of dysregulation, this is where we're going to come in and give lots of attention.

and offer ourselves as like a form of helping them regulate themselves. But then there, you also talk about selective attention as the sort of tantrums going on. Can you tell us, tell us about selective attention? 

[00:48:19] Rebecca Hershberg: Yeah, and this was another one of those moments where, um, there's no formula. Yeah. We're saying, wait a second, you told us not to reinforce the tantrum by giving it attention, and yet you're saying put on the attention.

This is where You have to know your child and your family situation. And again, if you are only coming in with the positive attention and the hugs once the whining or the grunting starts, then yeah, it may be that you need to make a shift that pans out much wider than, um, often though, what happens is, is that as a child starts tantruming, parents.

firmer and more angry, which then makes it work. So there is a way to stay very calm and very loving without necessarily reinforcing the tantrum, right? So sweet, again, sweetie, I get it. You really want an Oreo. I know that your body knows how to calm down and I'll wait. You know, I'll wait, I'm right here, you know, so you can sort of hold loving presence and not chastise your child and not escalate your child, um, while also not necessarily zooming in with kisses and hugs and snuggles that are cozier than anything else you've done all day.

Rebecca Hershberg: Yeah, cause then I would want to have a tantrum every day for kisses, hugs and snuggles. Does that answer your


[00:49:46] Hunter: I think so. It, yeah, you talk also, I think of the part about selective attention, I thought it was interesting, you already talked about the idea that, um, that there are times like that parents, we were, we're often, um, seeing our, our child is quiet, they're engaged in stuff, they're chilling, they're doing well.

So we take out our phone and then we're, we're in, you know, we take our attention away from our child and we. You know, scroll through Instagram or whatever we're doing, or we check the news, you know, and, and, and that you suggest that maybe sometimes taking out the phone is a good thing to do when the child is having a tantrum.

Talk to me a little bit about that.

[00:50:22] Rebecca Hershberg: Yeah. So, so it's this idea that our kids, um, they want us at this age more than they want anything. Um, and we often give them us when they're doing the thing we don't want them to do. And we take away ourselves, as you said, by, taking out our phone or whatever it is when they're doing the thing we want them to do.

And so, again, and I think it's really an important distinction to make that when your child is having a tantrum and you have already said something, you know, maybe something brief and loving and kind, that you can then say, okay, sweetie, I know you're able to calm yourself down and when you do, we can do something fun.

In the meantime, I'm going to I'm going to return a couple emails or, you know, I'm going to, I'm going to check the news and, and you don't have to remove yourself physically. And that's a very different message from, you know what? I'm, I'm not doing this anymore. Forget it. And going to get your phone and sort of an angry disconnect.

The selective attention piece is very kind. You're not disconnecting, you're not angry. You're just simply using it as a behavioral tool. I've given you myself, you know that I'm here, but I'm not going to sort of constantly give you more of me than I would at any other time. And this is where it, the temperament of your kid is really important because I've had families that try this and it really, it really doesn't work.

You know, kids really amp up more and then other families where it works really, really well. And the whole message of the book is that. Some of these tools and approaches will work for some kids, some of the time, um, and to kind of mix and match based on your child, your family, um, your circumstances, but the ideas and the principles are somewhat universal.

So, for example, to think about attention, to just be intentional, to be mindful, given the podcast we're on, to be mindful about when are you giving your child your attention and what kind of attention is it and what effect does it have? Because that may differ from family to family, but it's really important nonetheless that each parent Understand that and take that into account.

[00:52:33] Hunter: Well, I can talk to you about this for a long time, but before we go, and, um, I'd love for you to talk just a little, share a little, share your story a little bit about how there are times where, you know, we quote unquote, we can quote unquote cave in. and Change Our Minds about a, you know, a boundary maybe we're holding.

And you share a story about that, and I would love if you could share that story here, because I think it just makes so much sense.

[00:53:00] Rebecca Hershberg: Sure, um, it's a really nice note to end on, so thank you. I, so, this, the story that I share to the book and I share Over and over and over again is, um, my son, Henry, I believe was about three and he called me in in the middle of the night.

I think this is a story that, um, and he called me in in the middle of the night. I think it was three in the morning. He shrieked for me and he said, um, I, uh, give me, wait, sorry, speaking of Henry. Bye. That was Henry, who just came, I guess, to say a quick hello, despite his dad's cautioning him otherwise.

We're definitely keeping that in, by all means. Um, he just ran up the stairs. Um, so at three in the morning, Henry calls me and, Mama, but I go into his room exhausted and he says, I need more ice in my room. And I say, you know, and I say, what, are you, are you here? Do you want to say a quick hello to the podcast, but then you have to go say hi.

Hi. Okay. Bye Henry. Close the door behind you, please. I'll be up in a couple of minutes.

All right. Living the working from home, working from home dream. Keeping it real here. Keeping it real and making the story much longer than it needs to be. Three in the morning, he needs more ice in his water. I say, Henry, absolutely not. That, that is not a reason to call me at three in the morning. And he starts screaming and he's awake.

He's not, I mean, he's half asleep, obviously, but he's not in a night terror or anything like that. I want more ice. It's not cold enough. It's not cold enough. And I was able, and this is the message of the book and the message I would give to families. And I'm not always able to do this, but in this moment I was able to pause and just really again be intentional and think to myself, what, what do I want to do?

I could, I could really toe the line on this and make this a huge thing that I'm not giving in on. And the reason to do that would be if then he were to learn that this was acceptable to call me in at three in the morning, or I could just get him the ice and his water and prevent him from waking up his baby brother, prevent me from having a horrible work day the next day.

And I decided to do the latter because it made a lot more sense in that moment and I knew I would be able to get back to sleep faster, that his brother would stay sleeping and that was the most important goal. I also knew, and this is where I think so many parents kind of get stuck in their spinning thoughts.

I also knew that this wasn't the be all end all decision. If this was a decision that was going to result in his calling me. into his room every morning at 3 a. m. I'm going to know that soon enough. I'm going to know that the next, and then I can take a different approach. Parents get so stuck in, and I sat there and I didn't know, what do I do?

What do I do? What do I not do? There's no one right answer. There's a decision that you make in the moment based on the information you have at the time, and you're sort of collecting data, and if the situation happens again or doesn't happen again, then you have more information. In my case, it turns out he didn't the next night call me in for more ice at three in the morning, and so all was good.

If he had, I would have had to address it kind of head on and taken a different approach. So that idea that you can think about each situation separately and again, just build in that pause, um, that mindful pause is, I think, the key to being able to handle some of this more effectively.

[00:56:34] Hunter: Well, Rebecca, your book is awesome.

The Tantrum Survival Guide. Everyone, you should go and get it if you're struggling. It is an easy read and Rebecca is a wonderful writer. so much for the work you're doing and for coming on Mindful Mama podcast. I really, really

[00:56:49] Rebecca Hershberg: appreciate it. Thank you. It was a pleasure and an honor. Um, I love this stuff.

So yeah, thank you.

[00:57:03] Hunter: Thank you so much for listening. I love Dr. Hirschberg's down to earth attitude, and I really mean it when I say the Tantrum Survival Guide is very readable. So, I mean, it's just such a breath of fresh air knowing that this is all normal, and that we will, we will get through it and, uh, we can, we can do it better.

Thanks to, thanks to Dr. Hirshberg. Yay! Before we go, I want to give a quick shout out. You know, those, um, ratings and reviews that you do really make a huge difference to help people find the podcast. So I want to give a shout out to Mother Shea. Who said that, uh, who gave a review on Apple Podcasts and she said that since becoming a mother a year and a half ago, I've been searching for conversations about motherhood that dive deeper about what it means to undergo this transformation.

And, uh, she says she loves the podcast. Thank you so much, Mother Shea. I really, really, really appreciate that, of course. And, um, before I go, I want to remind you that the Mindful Parenting free training is coming up. And this is a really powerful mindful parenting training, gives you a lot of the wonderful fundamentals of mindful parenting.

And it's live. I'll be there too. Live to answer your questions and to give you personal feedback. And you can join that at mindfulparentingcourse. com slash freetraining. That's mindfulparentingcourse. com slash freetraining. And then the Mindful Parenting Membership will be opening, and it only opens a couple times a year.

There's just a brief window when it opens, so make sure you, you know, you're there when it opens so that you can be part of it. And when you join the membership, it's kind of like you get three free podcasts, extra podcasts with me a month where we do Q& A and we share wins. It's really, really valuable.

And you get this whole community of other people who care about this way of parenting. You may be in a community where there's a lot of, I don't know, a lot of harsh authoritarian parenting or whatever. And you might need that support to bolster what you know is right, right? What you know is backed by science and child development.

So learn more at mindfulparentingcourse. com and join the free training. That's at mindfulparentingcourse. com slash free training. And finally, I just want to say thank you so much for listening. Thank you to everybody who has written to me about the daily dose and sharing your appreciation there. It's really.

bolstered me and my team to, um, continue to do it as for, as long as, you know, we, we can. And, um, and I'm wishing that, you know, I'm hoping that you, dear listener, are safe, I'm hoping that you're well, and, um, that you're just taking it day by day, keeping your attention in the here, in the now, keep coming back to the present moment, because when we get out of the stories and the future pacing, we can really see the miracles that are right here, so.

That's what I'm practicing to do. And I invite you to practice to do that too, my friend. Thank you so much for listening. Namaste.

[01:00:37] Rebecca Hershberg: I'd say definitely do it. It's really helpful. It will change your relationship with your kids for the better. It will help you communicate better. And just, I'd say communicate better as a person, as a wife, as a spouse. It's been really a positive influence in our lives. So definitely do it. I'd say definitely do it.

It's so worth it. The money really is inconsequential when you You get so much benefit from being a better parent to your children and feeling like you're connecting more with them and not feeling like you're yelling all the time or you're like, why isn't this working? I would say definitely do it.

It's so, so worth it. It'll change you. No matter what age someone's child is, it's a great opportunity for personal growth and it's a great investment in someone's family. I'm very thankful I have this. You can continue in your old habits that aren't working. Or you can learn some new tools and gain some perspective to shift everything in your parenting.

[01:01:40] Hunter: Are you frustrated by parenting? Do you listen to the experts and try all the tips and strategies, but you're just not seeing the results that you want? Or are you lost as to where to start? Does it all seem so overwhelming with too much to learn? Are you yearning for community people who get it, who also don't want to threaten and punish to create cooperation?

Hi, I'm Hunter Clark Fields, and if you answered yes to any of these questions, I want you to seriously consider the Mindful Parenting Membership. You'll be joining Hundreds of members who have discovered the path of mindful parenting and now have confidence and clarity in their parenting. This isn't just another parenting class.

This is an opportunity to really discover your unique, lasting relationship, not only with your children, but with yourself. It will translate into lasting, connected relationships, not only with your children, but your partner too. Let me change your life. Go to mindful parenting course.

MindfulParentingCourse. com to add your name to the waitlist so you will be the first to be notified when I open the membership for enrollment. I look forward to seeing you on the inside. MindfulParentingCourse.com

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