Alice Miller, child abuse and mistreatment

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Tantrum
Sunday January 20, 2008

Dear Alice Miller,

You have referred to tantrums in your books but we would be very interested in understanding why young children have tantrums (are they just the result of feelings of frustrations at the moment in time), and how is the best way to deal with tantrums that is helpful for the child? There are all sorts of methods cited (e.g., hugging, explaining to the child what they are finding upsetting, time out, physical removal from the scene (not physical violence), etc).

Kind regards, M.

AM: A tantrum shows the deepest despair and helplessness which a child is not able to express with words. An empathic adult will try to remember what happened right before it, in oder to UNDERSTAND what drove this child just now into despair, and to let him/her know about it with empathy. That can help the child to understand himself. But never should a child be punished for his despair. Such stupid, cruel advices show, why children cannot express themselves other than through a tantrum. Let us assume that your friend is coming to you and is sobbing, without being able to tell you, why. Would you lock her up in a room as punishment so that she will stop? Such advice though is given to parents when children are at stake.

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