[Episode 8] Tantrums

We've all witnessed a toddler randomly rolling and screaming on the floor in the middle of the convenience store aisle, typically with a beleaguered parent nearby wishing they could disappear. Indeed, it's a familiar and dreaded sight: the tantrum!

In episode #8 of "Moms talk with a French accent", La Petite Creme co-founder Cecile and NY-based Pediatrician and Holistic Health Coach, Dr Varisa Perlman explore the world of tantrum with their unique culturally-focused lens. Once again, they tackle a common word of the parenting vocabulary and expose the many aspects of tantrums management

What are tantrums? What do they mean? How to address them? And of course: how to prevent them? You'll know if all by watching this episode. 

(full text transcript below the video)


Moms Talk with Dr Varisa Perlman [episode #8]: Tantrums


Cecile: Well, welcome, everyone, to Episode number 8 of Moms Talk with a French accent. I'm the French accent. We're the mom all together. As I was saying, Fanny is not here today because she is enjoying her mommy time and family time in France. So she's connecting back to the homeland for a week. So we'll have her in our next episode. But today we are talking about tantrums.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: [laughs]

Cecile: Yeah. It makes you laugh. I don't know if it makes everybody who's here laugh because it's a loaded topic, with all parents have experienced at least once—tantrums. Everybody who is expecting a child have heard about tantrums and at least know the word. It's not a word that we embrace and hear about with a positive feeling, but we are here to address that pain point or supposedly pain point of parenting because there is no topic that's off-limits for us. We know by now that we tackle everything head-on. [laughs] So tantrums.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yes.

Cecile: For everybody who's watching, if you can write in the comments why you're here, what's tantrum bringing to you. Do you have a baby? Are you expecting a baby? What's your personal experience with tantrum? Any particular question that you have for me or for Dr. Perlman who's gonna introduce herself in a minute and yeah, write down, and as we introduce ourselves, you guys can just put in your input right there.

So, Varisa, why don't you start about who you are?

Dr. Varisa Perlman: So I am a pediatrician currently based in New York City. And I've been in practice for 25 years, but I'm currently working mostly as a holistic health coach. So working with parents to optimize ourselves, both as parents and as people, through the experience of raising children. And I've worked in Michigan and in Miami, which is where I met Cecile and Fanny, which is a beautiful international place. So that's part of the reason we've all joined together to have these conversations.

Cecile: Yes. And as you said, we met in Miami. So I'm Cecile from La Petite Creme. We make this unusual French-inspired butt lotion for babies, care routine. And we are very big into letting you be the parents you want to be. So any topic of discussion that we bring into our episodes, it's meant to just challenge each other's brain, share our mom experience. I have two kids. Varisa, you have two kids. Fanny has two kids. So we have a wide range of options and yet we don't know anything [laughs] as far as parenting goes, right? Because we could have a thousand kids, they would all be different. So tantrum.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yeah. So I think you set it up well. First thing, just as you're saying, is the fact that we are all different parents, our children are all different kids. What's a tantrum in one home may be just loud speaking in another home. [laughs] So I think that it's really important to understand that no word needs to be static, that it can be something that's evolving.

And sometimes, the reason why I'm starting to poke a little hole or holes on that is because sometimes when we define it, we drop it and we walk away. And we say, "Oh, gosh, they're just having a tantrum." And then we don't really feel like we're obligated to do anything beyond that. And I think that that's not a great idea. And people, I think that my attitude with that is very similar to my attitude towards when, "Oh, they've been sick every three weeks", right?

Anyone who's had any kid in any school setting, we give up. There's a certain kind of like, "Ugh, it's a tantrum," "They sick again," right? And we stop, the conversation stops. Everyone's like, "Oh, I know what you're talking about. We're all good." But it actually is not that simple because in order for us to work towards perhaps not being sick every three weeks, work towards self-regulation and kids' learning tools, we have to open that conversation up and not leave it as a bygone conclusion.

Yes, the truth is, is that not only is it a kid's first time being a kid, it's actually our first time being a parent. And we remind ourselves of that all the time. My kids are in college and I'm still feeling like, "What the hell is this?" [laughs] I feel like every quarter, I'm still turning and being like, "What is that?"

Cecile: And it's nice because you are a professional, and as a parent, it's very humbling to hear that even people who studied kids, work with kids, learn a lot of stories about kids that you still don't know what you're doing sometimes.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yeah. And that's okay. That humility is really important because we don't learn unless we admit what we know and what we don't know. And I think that the topic is a really—we left it vague for a reason because I think that there should be vagaries around it. And I think that is important for us to understand with each child, with each parent interaction, it's gonna be completely different. And so you have to step back and say, what does certain behavior mean to me?

Let's not label it. Let's not say that this is a tantrum, this is not a tantrum. Let's just say like, "When my kid acts this way, I get upset." Because we're labeling it because we're feeling we want people to validate that it's a really annoying situation. [laughs] All we're validating is that it's annoying, right?

Cecile: Yeah. It makes it a real thing if it has a word to it, makes it an escape somehow.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: But if we don't pause with a little bit of presence and say like, "God, what was going on half an hour before that tantrum?" "What was going on two hours?" "What was going on 12 hours?" "What was going on this week?" We don't really take the opportunity to understand how this kid is growing, how is the wiring working? Is there a reason that may be somewhat avoidable that we can help them, whether it be at that moment or maybe 24 hours ago, we could have helped them.

Cecile: So without labeling it, in terms of definition or if it's, as you said, we're breaking the word into what we're facing and redefining it we did in some other episode in the past where we take something that is very obvious and we just tear it apart and make it something different. Could we agree that what we're addressing today is an emotional reaction from a child and the reaction that we get in response to that as a parent, right? Because it's a two-way street. A kid won't have a tantrum, I'm assuming, on its own, right? It's not something where all of a sudden, they're by themselves and—It's usually a communication mechanism. It's a dance. It's two people together.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Actually, I'm gonna pause for a second because I wanna think about that for a second because the thing that I always like to inject this multicultural situation. And we are with our kids a lot and our kids are actually alone without us some of the time. And I think that what gets a little bit tricky, which is the part that I enjoy, but it may frustrate people is that from culture to culture, things vary a lot.

So I would imagine, I mean, I'm thinking, being from a Thai, Chinese, Asian culture, if I didn't smile at the right time when parents greeted me, to them, that was a tantrum. [laughs] They really expected it for me to be on. Oh, gosh, forget it. If my parents said, "Oh, how are you? How are you doing?" and I didn't answer, [laughs] or if I turned around and walked away, I mean, that—Again, there was no one yelling, there was no one screaming, that would've been it. That would've been a problem.

I'll be frank, I sometimes go out in public places and I see maybe kids that are "more American" in the sense of not more American, but maybe more Western style, screaming and yelling and banging on the floor. And I'm like, "I would never have gotten that far." [laughs] My parents would have caught me literally [laughs] four hours ago when I had a funky face on my face. And it's not because they're such better parents, but their whole [inaudible] And I don't know this is because we're coming from a communal society, and I'm applying Thai behavior onto a Western environment.

So it was that kind of thing where if you did not wake up happy and say, "Okay. Hello. How are you?" Even your tone of voice, you are not—things were—Everyone stopped and there was a look and a discussion. And so the idea that I would have gotten myself into such a fit, that I would eventually be banging on the floor, it wouldn't have never gotten that far. Not because I was that much better, or my parents were, but they were not—it wasn't happening.

Cecile: That's an interesting point of different culture because I'm also, as you're talking, thinking about my French American standards or my French upbringing, but then my American raising my kids. So I'm in between. And the word for tantrum or the equivalent that we would have in France is caprice, which is more like—it has the connotation of having an ulterior motive. It's a way to demand something, or it's a way to be given something.

And that's where you can stop me, I feel like tantrum in the American language feels more like a meltdown, right? As you said, sometimes we see kids in the supermarket, they're just rolling on the floor. I saw one actually yesterday. I felt so bad for the mom. She was like, "Yep, it's happening." But yeah, so to me, it feels now that you're mentioning it, that in the culture that we're in today, both of us in the US, it might be more of a meltdown of emotion, where it becomes like, "What do I do with this kid?"

The French one is more like, they're going to try to get something from you. So it's more a bargaining chip.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: So it's caprice, capricious, right? So the question is, is that, is it—and again, it can be different from every kid. Is it at that moment—because, again, I love the multiple cultures, because it actually gives you nuance to a word that we thought we all agreed on, right? So living in America right now, as you said, we're straddling multiple worlds. Being in America, when you say the word "tantrum", the first thing comes to my mind that there's someone being on the floor. And we've all been there. And we've all seen it.

My kids, my son's tantrum of the—his weapon of choice [laughs] was he wouldn't make a noise. He wouldn't make a sound. But he would literally go to the floor and start kissing the floor. We would be in a store and I would be like, "That is disgusting. What are you doing?" [laughs]

Cecile: For some reason, I feel like the American version of the tantrum is very public as well. It has a third-party audience, which we don't have so much in the French thing. French is a power relationship between parents and kids. They can do a tantrum just in front of you.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Are they calm when they have this "French tantrum"?

Cecile: It could be but it could also not be and be like, "I just want it!" It comes with a demand usually to be done their way. Yes.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: It's not diffusing but there's just a clear demand to it.

Cecile: Yes.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yeah. So the question is, is that now that we're going through different nuances and then methods of how to have it, how are they going to express it, we get a little bit closer to some problem solving, how to diffuse it, how to prevent it. But we won't understand those methodologies until we go back to the source. What does it look like? What are we defining?

And I think that we don't give kids enough credit. They're still people. If I'm still struggling at the age of almost 50 to understand social norms and my own body and my own behavior and how I interact with other people, wow, that must be hard when you're 3. [laughs] It's a lot of information that you're expected to just know. And I am not saying that I'm the kind of person that is like, "Oh [laughs] he's so hilarious. He's just licking the floor. He's just flailing." But it's that kind of thing where you're not gonna get anywhere.

Clearly, my son was just overtired and wanted to leave the store. It's just a way for him to get my attention and be like, "You're not listening to me when I say I don't wanna go, I don't wanna go, I'm tired, I wanna go home."

Cecile: And I think that's where everything has in common from everything we looked at here and we talked about is attract your attention. And I feel like every kid would know the way to attract your attention. So if you were the kind of mom who would laugh when they lick the floor, you would not have found that method That's because it was resonating with you and being like, "Oh, she's gonna—That's the button. I'm gonna push it right there." [laughs]

Dr. Varisa Perlman: I always tell people that if you put me up against a 2 or 3-year-old, a toddler in terms of battling them, I'm not gonna put much money on myself. [laughs] I am gonna tell you that I have been schooled seriously by my 2-year-old. When my kid was 2 years old, I will generally lose. I was like, if I win, I was surprised because what we underestimate is an incredible amount of insight that they have. They have very feral abilities to pierce through whatever you might think is on your facade, go right to the heart of feeling. Not even a thought, but it's a feeling. They can feel things in ways that I think that we just lose over time.

I see that happen a lot during growth periods, so toddlers, adolescents, they just have a piercing sense of how to manipulate their world, get what they want. Now, if you, again, frame it in the idea of growth phases, it's smart because you need to attract attention to have your needs met, period. This is what communication is all about. And in many ways, we underestimate how powerful it is to spend a moment in their shoes and say how does the world work from their shoes?

Very similar to when kids get sick. I always tell people it's an opportunity for us to look to see, are we all not going to sleep on the right time? What is our body trying to tell us that we're a little off about? Similarly, a tantrum is just a moment. If you just take it as a moment, as what are they trying to say? And it may not be even, again, a thought. It may not be where like, in the very French way, like, "I want this, so this is what I'm doing." It may not be that literal, but it can even be like, "This is the third party that we've gone to. I just want to sit in my house, in my room and stare at the wall. I'm tired."

Cecile: Do you feel like sometimes—because I think it's not surprising in a way that it's always happening in the stores. All the story we have or the witnessing, because when we think about it, the amount of stimulation in stores to make you want to—the music, the sound, the people, all the movement that the eyes is catching, the smell, the temperature in the store, and then all those things that marketers are paying a lot of money to have you look at, all the colors.

So maybe their brain is just reacting to like, okay, I need to shut down, and I need to shut down by just collapsing. The actual meltdown of it's just too much. And it's coming in a way that might not be the way we would expect them to say, "Oh, it's too much. I have an overload." Do you think that would make sense?

Dr. Varisa Perlman: I think that we live in a very different society than we grew up in. And I don't want to feel like that old man that's like, "When we were young—" [laughs] I'm not trying to play that because not everything that we did when we were young was so great either. But there was a lot more random open time. And stimulation is a crazy thing. I mean, it's that kind of thing where we just overdo it. Whether even just being on social media or seeing screens in front of us.

Why is it so revolutionary when we're having people in medicine and health saying, "Just take a walk." The fact that we have to say things like, "Let your kid have some time to play." Why are we even having to say these things? Because we've just gotten to the habit. We've gotten to the habit of feeling like if we don't stimulate our children, this whole idea of like, "Let me stimulate my children," then we're somehow not doing a good job as a parent.

And again, that goes back to a little bit of that performative parenting and that idea of like, "Well, my kid is in all these classes and they're just running around." And you look at the kid, and the kid's like, "I don't even know where I am right now." [laughs] "I've been driving in the car. I don't know, you just dropped me off somewhere. Now it's tap dance. And then, later on, [inaudible]" Kids actually don't need a lot. People, we don't need a lot. There's no Adam and Eve story where like, "And then God gave us a computer."

It's that kind of thing where it's all there, but at the same time, it cuts from a lot of basic wiring that actually, neurologically, they actually find that just by walking and taking a walk outside, looking at the sun, looking at the sky, looking at the trees, your eyes start to beat in a different beat. It's neurologically trying to calm you down. But a lot of the stuff that we have, whether it be in the stores, whether it be in the iPads, everything is—we're not getting any downtime.

Cecile: Like a breathing room, right? Somewhere where you're just swimming underwater, you have to come up and breathe sometimes.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: So I'm going to give you a name to it and I've been throwing this out there just because I feel it's in our conversations, this idea of masking and unmasking. In our daily life, in our social interactions and what we have to do to get things done, we do a lot of masking. Even if you're tired, you move on. Even if you're distracted, you move on. Even if you don't want to go sit over there, you have to go sit over there. Everyday things are being done and we just have to be that person that follows all the rules. And that's important.

However, when we come home and we're supposed to be unmasking so that we are rejuvenated to mask again, we're cutting that out. So allowing kids to have and people to have undefined time. I always say the most important thing about a schedule is how much you unschedule. [inaudible]. And it's the type of thing where we've overdone it. You're not allowing self-initiated learning, which is the ability to burn on your own and to have curiosity and obsess about something and really get involved with things, we're just not leaving that time for kids to be bored. That also [inaudible].

But if you're always given tasks to do, which is our form of stimulation, you don't really have time to let your mind wander and say, "Do I really like to do this?" "Well, this is really interesting." And I just think that there's so much being asked of kids, especially in the way that we're schooling our kids these days. Kids rarely even have recess. Everything is planned. If you can minimize your activities after school so that they just have time to just hang out.

I mean, my clearest memories of being a kid is literally laying on the grass and looking at the sky. I must have done that for so long because I don't have many other memories. [laughs] I don't know what else I did. But I don't remember doing much else besides that.

Cecile: And just to note it, you ended up being a doctor. So it's not like it was time wasted. That's important to point out because people nowadays feel like we need to teach them— My daughter just got into middle school and they're already talking about how she can take advanced credit and get high school credit or whatever. And I'm like, "She's in the first year of middle school. She's going to be in high school when she's high school age. Why would she fast forward on that and at what cost?"

So I hear you when you say that. But it feels like if they're not in all those programs and those extra stellar type of thing, they're going to be left out and end up being with no career, but yet you're an example of like, yeah, your brain was rested and you managed to compete with others.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: I started getting a little bit sad because I started seeing, as a pediatrician, more and more kids that were exhausted, getting sick really easily, having more tantrums, really just being dysregulated because they couldn't have time to unwire, to untap. And it became a situation where it really enforced the question to me. What do you want for your kids?

I always say that I did my residency and my kids were my fellowship. [laughs] It's in your face now. Do you walk the walk, talk the talk? What are we really doing? And when I looked at my kids, we had swimming, because I don't want them to drown. [laughs] So they had swimming. I tried to really pare it down to the basics. We had swimming and then we did a little bit of religious school, just to have that space. And that was it. Literally, that was it. And if they did beg for me to do something, I was like, "There is the basement, there's the backyard, I'll see you in a couple hours."

And then we would wander around and maybe if I did any errands, I would take them or I would take them for some soup at this little diner that had this little old man that would play chess every day and they would watch a train go around . To me, I was like, "How much free fun can I find? How much can I have that is just unscripted?"

Cecile: Okay, so I'm gonna be the advocate of people who do a lot of things over in their weekends and stuff, especially when space is an issue. You have a 2-year-old and a baby or a 3 and a 4, you're in an apartment, how do you create that free time without it becoming madness and counterproductive?

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yeah, I think that you just said it. Why do we have to be productive? I want unproductive time. And I would say, to me, my kids' favorite days was like, "Oh, we have nothing to do and I'm just gonna cook all day." And they were like, "Cool, we'll see you in a couple hours for lunch." And it was a relief for me. It was a relief for them. They had some time. My kids are both in the arts and both of those, I didn't bring them to any classes before they started. They did this stuff because they were playing with this and then they decided to do this and they were playing with that.

And my son asked me once, he said, "Why didn't you put me in music classes before middle school?" I did force him because I didn't wanna drop off two kids in two different places. So that was pure laziness on my part, which is not always the worst excuse either. And I said, "Because you never told me you were interested in it. I'm not gonna force you to do something that you're not that interested in because I'm tired, you're tired. We're gonna have tantrums. I'm gonna have the adult version. [laughs] You're gonna have the kid version, and we're just gonna go tantruming back and forth, and we're just not gonna enjoy that."

So why don't you find something that you actually like? We'll pick a couple things here and there, but it is so hard because there's a lot of keeping up with the Joneses. We have this whole, again, performative parenting. Well, they're doing that, and then you look up and you're like, "Oh, my kid, my kid's only in third grade. what am I doing?" And I think that that is something that is really tricky because we live in an American society. I don't know, in France, what does that look like, the whole activities [inaudible]?

Cecile: Well, in France, just like in many other aspects, they're lucky to have a good social system. So after school, the kids go to an area where they get just similar to the aftercare. So that is usually free or very, very cheap. So it also changed the dynamic of having to fill time with something else. Imagine everybody listening here, if you had free aftercare, you wouldn't question too much what they're doing. It's like, yeah, whatever.

But with that being said, the aftercare itself has a lot of time of just sitting in a room doing nothing. You'll sit there. If you have homework, you do your homework. Otherwise, it's like your study time or whatever, as long as everybody is not running around. But there is no back-to-back activity of like, we're going to soccer. And then half an hour later, we're moving to do this. And then we're going. So it is still ingrained in the system. But I have to give it to them that it's much easier because they don't have a kid that gets out of school at 2:00 in the afternoon and they have to fill that time with something.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Right. It's interesting because—So, again, my kids are in college, but we had aftercare because I worked and I couldn't really pick them up until 6 o'clock. And so what did they do for a couple hours? I mean, every single board game under the sun, they got involved in weird crafts that I would have probably never done with them, the little pieces that I really hated, actually. Random snacks. Going outside. It was pretty freeform.

I had a friend who stopped by my house, and I remember we were just hanging out at home like usual, and she said, "Okay, well, I can see [inaudible] Spanish and hockey." And I was like, "Okay, well, we're here. Whatever, come by." She comes by and her kid's here. And I start talking to her. I go, "What activities does he do?" And she's going through the activities. And I'm counting, and it was 13 activities a week, not including school. Do you know how old he was? He was 4 years old.

And then I said, "Why don't you go downstairs? My kids are downstairs." If I had any scraps of things, I would literally throw them into the basement and just see what they did, whatever. [inaudible] but I was like, "I am not doing this. You are gonna figure some fun out for yourself." And he came back up in five minutes and he was like, "I'm bored." And I was like, "Yeah, that's the point. Go down." [laughs] He had lost the ability to play.

And in the American Academy of Pediatrics, this has been a point of "concern" because literally seeing that a lot of kids are just overscheduled. They're like, "We don't really understand." And I'm not saying to not schedule everything. It doesn't have to be extreme. But if you can carve out time that you are like, "No, we are literally doing nothing." [laughs]

Cecile: Well, and maybe to remove some of the guilt of doing nothing, we can go back to what we said earlier of having that breathing time. And maybe it's not nothing. It's a buffer. So if it's building up to a lot of emotion, lots of emotion, lots of feeling, then that time being, okay, now it's a time where you can process and have everything settle down and then we can build up on top of it. So if we go back to this tantrum or expression of feeling, overwhelming expression of feeling that we talk about today, then having those break to have a time for the emotion to settle down might be what's giving us a better long-term chance of not having the overflow, right?

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yeah. To me, I always go back to the Chinese medicine of eat, sleep, stress. For me, it's a stressed-out space. For me, I felt like if it's stressing me out to be literally driving you from place to place to place, picking you up, putting you back in the car, getting you set up, if I'm so stressed out that I feel like I could have a tantrum right now, it's not that far from that.

And I think that the hard thing is that sometimes we just get like, "But oh my God. This third party, we really need to go to this third birthday party," and everything like that. "We promised them we were gonna go." And your kids are looking, they're like, "Where am I? I'm so tired." No, that's not fair. It's not fair for everybody. It's not fair for you. It's not fair for your kids. There doesn't have to be that FOMO where you're constantly feeling like you're missing out on something.

Cecile: I like the comment that you made that if as parents we're stressed out or we don't want to do something, maybe we should listen to that inner voice and just say no. [laughs] It's hard because we don't want—I know if I do something like that, then I feel like I'm letting my kids down and I'm being selfish. And I'm like, "Okay, my needs goes before theirs," but now you're giving validation that if it's too much for my need, then it's too much for them too.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: You're just a meter for that as well. And if you're driving them around and you're like, "I hate this, I hate this, I hate this," [laughs] it's not great. They're not feeling happy about it either. And like you said, it's not a bad thing to feel tired and selfish. We say "selfish", but if you're exhausted, your kids are exhausted, period. And so let's just let them have time that's just unscheduled.

And you say like, "What do you do?" I mean, literally, sometimes you'll be like, "You go to that room, I go to this—" literally like dropping people in rooms and being like, "We'll meet back in an hour." It doesn't have to be like, "I'm gonna now hover over you while you do that Lego, put that piece over there." That's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about literally just free time where there's nothing. And allow their imagination to take over. Allow your imagination to take over.

If you don't give yourself a little bit of that open space to do what you want to do—I am perfectly fine if I'm having to unmask and settle down. I will watch five episodes of K-dramas [laughs] back-to-back. When they say continue, I hit continue. Just hit continue. I continue, I just continue. And it would drive my husband—my husband can't even listen to five minutes of it, but I'm completely gone. My brain is just literally untangling as it's going on.

Cecile: And it's nice that you're saying that because we're not talking to make an effort to not think. So we're not talking like meditation or yoga, something where you're like, "I need to now transform that time into something that I can say what I was doing." It's just a matter of like, "I'm shutting down to expectations."

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yeah. [laughs] That's the thing, is that I love and hate why do we have to always be productive? And why isn't it productive when we untangle? Why is that not considered? Because there's no product? But what the product is, is that our brain is recharging. Literally, our mind is recharging.

It's interesting because so many times, we have this epidemic of kids who are really, really anxious. It's a word we use very freely. That person's anxious, that person's anxious. So everyone's like, "Is it just the kids?" or just glomming onto a term, but I think that our society is anxious. I think that kids are like the canary in the coal mine. [laughs] They're just literally reflecting how we all feel.

We're all starting to see past what I call the matrix. I don't know if you ever saw the movie with Keanu Reeves and everything. [laughs] And it's that kind of thing that we're starting to poke holes and say, "Hey, listen, does it really have to be like this all the time?" Can't we just look at each other and be like, "What do you feel like doing?" "Well, what do you feel like doing?" Yeah, let's just hang."

My parents being Asian immigrants was all about productivity. Literally, it was all about productivity. And it was always about like, "Don't read a book unless it was assigned for your school, [laughs] don't read it. Don't waste your time on that." And the best thing that happened to me was that they worked. So then it left a lot of time that they just left us alone. So I think that if my parents were in that mode of being productive, productive, productive, I think that it would have really messed with me because I really enjoyed just having nothing on the schedule.

It was really just so liberating for me to say like, hey, you have the whole day that you can do whatever you feel like at that moment. I can't tell you how I'm gonna feel in a week, what I want to do, but I can tell you five minutes from now, yeah, this would actually be really cool. Let me just do this, how I feel. And if we did that a bit more, I think that we wouldn't always get to that tantrum. We wouldn't always get to that space, both, again, as adults and as kids.

Cecile: Adult and mother tantrum are a thing. I'm guilty of it. [laughs]

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Right. [laughs] And again, we feed off of each other. If you're in a bad mood, I'm in a bad mood. Everybody is just in a hot mess. And then eating and sleeping are basic human functions. And you mess those up, and guess what? Tantrums on the way. You're not feeling well, your body—Tantrums are just basically your body trying to tell you, hey, listen, pay attention to me. I'm pissy. I'm just not really—I'm not happy.

Cecile: So if we're saying that saving time and taking a break and allowing additional time would be the key to prevent tantrum in children, how do we react or what's a healthy way to handle them when they happen or after the fact? Is there something to be doing after?

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yeah. I mean, I think I've had people that are like, "Oh my God, we went to the birthday party and he had such a tantrum and we had to leave." And I'm like, "Great, that's exactly what you should have done." That's sometimes how you treat it, is that you just bring down the stimulation. Get them out of that setting and just bring them out to the fresh air.

I understand that there is sometimes something they want. So it's interesting because the French have kind of said, hey, usually, just so you know, when your kid's having a tantrum, they're trying to manipulate you to get something, right?

Cecile: Yeah. That's the common thinking, yes.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: I tell you, sometimes I think that sometimes you don't know why you're having a tantrum. And you may say like, "Well, I want this." So my kid's actually on the live today. And Izzy was notorious during adolescence times to be hungry, but get very hangry. And even now. So we found, we would fight and we would fight and we would talk about and we would fight about this. We would fight about that. But then when I learned that they were probably hungry, I would literally throw them food. Before they even opened their mouth, I could see in their eyes that there was this cloudiness. [laughs] Give them something to eat. And they were like, "So mom, did you have a good day?" Literally, it was Jekyll and Hyde.

And so the question is that, was there something that they were trying to manipulate me on? Or was it like they just were angry and they didn't know even why? And so even now, Izzy is now 20 years old and has become more wise. And they will say to me, and they can feel themselves, and they will say, "We really need to go eat soon because I'm feeling a little angry." [laughs] And they know that it's not that—it's words gonna come out of my mouth. I don't even really know what exactly I would be arguing about, I'm gonna argue about something. But if we ear—

Cecile: It's coming.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yeah. We might be able to not have that conversation. And that comes with time. That comes with us understanding what our body needs and acting on it and listening to it.

Cecile: So for people who are listening, tomorrow we're going to a store or something and then a kid is just having the big tantrum, so step number one is maybe to take them down and maybe communicate that we understand that they're going through something and we're here for them because sometimes, again, it becomes a situation of power where they're probably just screaming for help. We as parents tend to react as like, "No, you're not going to get me. I'm not going to fall for it." So maybe a place of hugging and be like, "Okay, listen, I hear you. We get out of here and then we can reassess," or whatever.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: [inaudible] having a very physical situation and they're physically screaming and yelling, holding them is not bad, but I don't believe in really talking a lot. I don't think it would really help. I think that it becomes a very feral primal moment when you get like that. And that's why I think that sometimes we should react to it in a primal way, meaning minimal talking, maybe [inaudible] them out, having them go outside, just not really negotiating in front of everyone, because honestly, they're not in a point of negotiation. You're only going to get into a back-and-forth. This isn't a conversation. This is a moment where literally their system is getting overloaded.

Cecile: Okay. Yeah. So you don't want to add to the load by adding words and their brain having to comprehend those words or sentences. Makes sense.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: So the more that you can do, whether holding them or—sometimes, I felt my kids are, at least what I see, a lot of times just even bringing them to another setting, almost bringing them out of it physically helps them recalibrate themselves and pull themselves back down. Because that's what you ultimately wanted them to be able to learn. It is to know when it's starting to rise and it's starting to bubble over, how to avert.

Cecile: Okay. That's the idea then, try to just move the setting around so that their attitude is more like, "Okay, now I need to readapt."

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Right. It's almost like a reboot. It reboots them physically. Whereas if you stood there in that setting, "Come on, sweetie. It's okay. I know that—" Even if you're trying to say nice things, it'll turn to a back and forth, which is not—they're not in that space. They're literally overloaded.

Cecile: Okay, that makes sense.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: So that, again, it's a skill set that comes with time. But your skill set is that you get to know your kids better. So you can see like, "Hey, listen, I know that I've got to do this. But gosh this person is starting to get a little tired. I know that I can only do this. " It sounds strange.

So my husband and I, it's just the two of us now, and we're not as, thankfully, preoccupied with who's gonna drop off here, who's gonna pick up here. So now we're really attuned to each other. And you'll see us when we're booking our weekend or what we're gonna do, and I'm like, "No, you can't—we're just gonna have lunch and then I'll give you those five hours in the afternoon to hang out and watch documentaries." My husband just needs nothing. And so I don't overbook him because he's gonna get—he literally either physically gets sick [laughs] he's like a kid. He would get physically sick or he gets like, "Ugh, why do I have to do this?" And it's that kind of thing.

It's all the same mechanism, but we try to make it seem like, oh, it's only kids who get this way. And it's like, no, we've all had that where we've been so overloaded that we're like, "Oh my God, I can't do more. I just need time."

Cecile: Yeah, cause as adults, as you said, we're just putting a facade. So we're masking most of the time and we learn how to mask better, so we think. Our kids are not fooled, but we think we do. But the tantrum is even worse on the other side. [laughs] I feel like when we unmask, it's a little like—With my kid, it's a wave. You don't want to be in the vicinity. [laughs]

Dr. Varisa Perlman: It's like letting go a little bit of steam at a time. Letting it go, letting it go, letting it go, so it never builds up, and then now that mask comes over, you're like, "There's a monster underneath there." It's that kind of thing where we have to say that like, "I'm going to let you let off a little bit of steam little by little so that it doesn't build up and then literally explode." Really.

So it's funny because if I have a parent who comes into the—'cause I get this as a pediatrician. "My kid's having tantrums left and right." And literally, it would be like, okay, how is eating? Are they in a growth phase? Are they having enough protein in their diet? Are they having a lot of sugar all the time? Are there ups and downs? Are eating times unpredictable where you're like, "I don't know, let's swing something together."

Kids need to eat on a regular basis. Humans need to eat on a regular basis. So if you're like, "Well, we'll see how I feel." You're just setting yourself up for a tantrum for yourself and for your kid, so everyone's included. Are you sleeping? Are you going to sleep at a consistent time? Is there a good routine? Is the kid fighting you? Are they waking up in the middle of the night? These are all things—I check their body.

Because honestly, my son, he would have a sinus infection. He was a pretty easy kid. And all of a sudden, the nanny was like, "He was hitting me today. I think he's sick." And I was like, "I don't think he's sick." And she's like, "I think he's sick. He's had this runny nose." And sure enough, he had a sinus infection. So I was just like, "Oh, damn it." But it was his behavior that told me about his physicality.

So having a tantrum is really the tip of the iceberg. That just starts to let you know, like, "Hey, I'm sending out the smoke signal. Something is not great. Can we just unconstruct or deconstruct how the last couple of days have gone? And I promise you I'll try not to let it happen again."

Cecile: So I get to my favorite question that I ask you every episode. When does a parent need to worry? When does it become something that's like, no, it's just not the regular, it's something more important.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: [inaudible] to be dramatic. I mean, the same way that if you have a kid who just never has tantrums and all of a sudden is hitting, scratching, spitting really to an extreme event, which, again, this is a very rare consequence, then that's something that would be more urgent, right? If it's something where the kid is really just you're not able to figure out how to help them, and you're starting to feel like you do a couple of things that helps, but it doesn't help, I would see your doctor because kids are pretty easy in that way that their behavior belies their body.

This is why a lot of people don't really like pediatrics, [laughs] because a lot of people like to be like, "Okay, where does it hurt? It hurts in your stomach. Okay, great. So where on your stomach?" People enjoy that because it's literally—But secret is honestly, it doesn't always work that. [laughs] So everyone thinks that they're a lot easier, adults are a pain in the ass too, right? Because sometimes they're a little bit sad. And so they're actually feeling hurt because they're hurt. So adults, that's why I don't do adults.

But kids are actually pretty easy. They will show themselves. It's interesting, I had someone who was pregnant, about to have a baby, and they were like, "I'm really nervous because I know when my body hurts, I can communicate what's going on, but how does this little baby say that? All they do is sleep and eat." And I'm like, "You just answered your own question." If they're not sleeping and they're not eating well, something's wrong because their only job is to do that. For kids, their only job really is to hang out, have fun, be happy. They're not really making lists on their little mind.

I love it. My favorite thing is because I'm not seeing the kids as much these days, I found that I'll take a walk around 2 o'clock and I'll be watching all the parents picking up the kids from school. And the parents, you see their faces so serious and they just got to go to swimming, they got to take this one to baseball, and they look so serious, and all this kid wants to do is skip. [laughs] All the kid wants to do is skip and show you that there's a cat up on the door there and then oh my gosh, look, the birds are coming. That's all they want to do. And the parents are like, "We gotta go where we gotta go." And I just look and they're literally dragging this kid, like, "But did you see the bird up there?" [laughs]

It's like trying to corral a cat. Their only joy, the only purpose of their life is to enjoy. So the kid is pissed, it means that you've cut their joy a little bit. And honestly, why aren't we all like that? Why shouldn't we all be seeing the bird [laughs] up in the tree on the way home? We're missing a lot of these moments that are naturally in place to make us feel happier and joyful for each day.

So I guess I'm always looking for a twofer. This whole idea of they're born the way they are to heal the family. If I somehow force you [laughs] to let your kids play more and explore more and be more curious, and that is contagious and you play more and you're more joyful, then, gosh, that's fantastic. Because sometimes that's why kids are great. They just remind us of what's really important, and what's really, really important is to be present. We can't be present when we've got five classes to go to. [laughs] It literally becomes impossible.

Cecile: So I think we'll wrap up on that. So we'll have structure with a lot of free time, buffer time to unload, and let everything slow down. It's a process for people who are hard into the tantrum phase and they feel a little defeated. Don't give up. You're on the right track and adding free time is one day at a time, a little bit here and there and you'll probably see the benefit. And send us a message when you do see the benefits because we'll be happy to be part of your journey and see that we had a positive impact as well, right?

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Absolutely. [laughs]

Cecile: So have a great day, Dr. Perlman.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Bye.

Cecile: Bye, everyone. Thank you for following us for Episode 8 of Mom Talk with a French Accent. And we'll see you again soon. Bye.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Bye.


Watch other episodes here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL1dpfz3OiZoOwHuST-GmH9sTD0TfF3rIp

Older Post Newer Post