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5 Tips To Handle Adults Who Throw Tantrums

5 Tips To Handle Adults Who Throw Tantrums
5 Tips To Handle Adults Who Throw Tantrums

What do you do when your wife is throwing a tantrum like a child?

One man thought he should secretly video record it, and, publish it online!

And his video went highly viral on YouTube, exposing his wife throwing an extreme tantrum. The man videorecorded her without her knowledge and he then uploaded it.

The video reveals the wife seated in car her screaming, tossing her head and body back and forth, and flailing her arms. Her behavior is the equivalent of a 3-year-old child throwing a tantrum.

However, the husband’s response is just as significant and revealing as is her behavior and tantrum:

The husband smiles, laughs, smirks, and even teases her. Ultimately, he is provoking and encouraging her all the while reveling in the enjoyment of her out-of control behavior; he appears to be enjoying the power.

The dynamic between this husband and wife is highly dysfunctional; it is cruel and toxic. She is emotionally stuck and trapped at age 3 – 4 and she responds to emotional stressors as a 3-year-old who cannot control her emotions which, completely overpower her.

The husband is emotionally stuck and trapped at adolescence, behaving like the bullying brother who thrives on the power he has over a younger sister; in this case, his emotionally immature wife. Again, both people here are emotionally immature and lack emotional intelligence.

If the wife was throwing tantrums on a regular basis (as he claims), and if wanted to convince his friends of this truth (as he claims), then he could first show it to her, and discuss the next steps. He also claimed that she always gets her way, and yet, she obviously isn’t getting her way and thus, she is throwing a tantrum.

Two years after the divorce, the husband still went online in chat boards, seeking validation from other men for his actions and validation of the awful way his wife reacted with her tantrum. Why did he need validation from other men, and why didn’t he just move forward with his life if he is so “right’?

Nonetheless, the opening question is posed:

What do you do when your wife is throwing a tantrum? .

The answer is safety, followed by specific strategies to calm the person and then, compassion & understanding.

Here are 5 tips to handling someone close to you who might be throwing a tantrum:

1. Ensure that he/she is physically safe
2. Stay calm and composed; do not get sucked into the drama or retaliate; do not respond with blame, shame, judgment or guilt-tossing; do not debate (they cannot hear you)
3. Speak with compassion – understand that this person is emotionally stunted, under extreme stress, is overwhelmed, lacks emotional intelligence or has a neurological dysfunction
4. Validate the person’s emotions. Say phrases that reflect the person’s behavior and emotions: “I can see you are angry and frustrated…I understand that you are upset and angry”
5. Stop the tantrum by offering a choice – “I am here to listen to you but I can’t do that while you are shouting/throwing things/screaming. As soon as you can calm down, I will listen to whatever you have to say.” Again, it is critical to say this in a firm but calm voice.

Remember, that when a person is throwing a tantrum – they are expressing both anger and sadness – and they struggle to process information.  Most likely, they are in the fight or flight response. Therefore, you cannot speak in logical terms or ask more questions of him/her because they cannot hear you.  It is best to wait till they pass the point of peak anger.

When the tantrum is over, you can sit down with the other person and talk about how you felt when he/she was throwing the tantrum. Avoid labeling the behavior but instead talk about how it frightened you or causes you to shut down. “When you scream/shout/throw things, I feel (list the emotion) and then I (list the behavior and response – shut down, become nervous, etc.)

The better you can understand the other person and what triggers him/her, the better you will be able to respond in the moment. However, also remember that you do not have to tolerate bad or dangerous behavior; you must set your boundaries and state, at the right time, what you will and won’t accept. If your partner is throwing tantrums that are either intense, frequent or long-lasting, then he/she needs professional help. Posting  a video on the internet to publicly humiliate him/her won’t change the behavior, although, it will immediately end the relationship!

Patrick Wanis PhD
Human Behavior Expert

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