Saturday, March 24, 2012

Tantrums and Trust Disorders: Doorways to Better Relationships

by John and Diane 
So, your new foster child is throwing a fit. He is tossing his room. You have removed all the sharp objects and safety threats, and he rips posters off the walls, strips his bed, empties his dresser drawers and closet and pees on the floor. He yells and screams and calls you names.

You stand by and wait for the storm to pass.

Eventually he runs out of steam. Still angry-faced, he sits on his bare mattress and you enter the room with paper toweling. Kneeling on the floor, wiping up the urine and piling up the soil clothes you begin to ask questions calmly and quietly.

“Why did you get so mad at your brother?”
“Because he wanted the toy and he always gets everything he wants.”
“He does?”
“Yes! When we lived at home Mom always gave him everything and I got nothing and I had to work while he played…”
“I had to take care of him and then when he got in trouble I am the one that got hit for it…”

The conversation continues as the child watches you clean up his mess, not judging him, listening to his story, learning his history and accepting him for who he is.

You are in what I call “Jesus Mode.”

You walk into the darkness with your detached, abused or child with Trust disorders. You accept him and do not judge him, you sacrifice and serve him and you learn his stories and history over time so that eventually you can take the power and the hurt away and release him.

This doesn’t happen overnight mind you, you have to use tantrums as opportunities to allow a child to tell you his story. You will find that as you get to know the child, more details will emerge and the stories will build. Important details will come out that will need to be discussed and explored with caseworkers and therapists.

As you listen and ride the storm out with the child, and as he sees you accepting his behavior and “serving” him by cleaning up his mess, he begins to take pity on you, and sees your sacrifice and your love for him.

You two grow together and you are soon able to recite his stories back to him. By doing so you take the power away from the past. The child will see that you have heard him and you can add relevant facts to the stories, such as if abusers were punished by the law.

That is what tantrums are really all about. They are built up frustrations, a way of saying “no one hears me, I don’t trust anyone, and no one is helping me.” When you use the tantrums to uncover the hidden wounds that feed them, you begin the process of healing, and diffuse the anger.

image: Flickr: License Some rights reserved by eyeliam


  1. I really needed this article today. Though we are foster parents, I am going through horrible tantrums with my 6 six old biological child and today was hands down one of the worst in months.

    Thank you for a different perspective and one that does not put me at odds with my child, but on the same side.

  2. Thank you for your very nice comment. So glad the article offered you some help and hope. Please let us know if we can help you in any other way... we will be praying for you
    John - FPR
    via Diane (web diva)