A Kid Enjoys a Good Blow Out Like I Enjoy a Good Martini

Jun 05, 2023

Dear Parent,

I reply to many questions daily from parents who need support between sessions. Turns out, I don't always understand the questions and offer less than what is expected.  However, sometimes the replies have a universal quality, like this one:

I wanted to follow up about that glee you witness when your child is tantrumming—commonly referred to as throwing a fit, exploding, melting down and, my favorite, blowing-out

That glee is part and parcel of a profound chemical reaction.  When he is blowing-out, his brain is flooded with cortisol, a stress hormone, which takes his prefrontal cortex off line and with it his judgment, caring, and ability to respond appropriately.  When his adrenaline pumps through his body, it gives him the feeling of superman-like physical power.  Endorphins are released because of the over-arousal giving him a burst of relief and, dare I say it, exuberant satisfaction.  All of this makes him seem to ENJOY a good blow-out while it is happening.

What you interpret as enjoying the negative escalation is really enjoying the chemical process of the blowout, not the defiant behavior directed at you.  To top it all off, this chemical alchemy is ADDICTIVE, so the blowouts can become habituated because unconsciously he is seeking that intense feeling.

That said, what is the answer?   While you are championing recovery from addictive blowouts, you have to do some therapeutic things that might seem counter-intuitive. Remember, his brain is addicted to blowing-out.  He has been blowing-out most of his life; it isn't just for you.  You will have to do the regular, daily, hard work of re-organizing his experiences to replace the blowout habit with a new positive addiction like relational, interactive play--the language of children.

Keep your emotions light and be playful. Give him the same chemical alchemy in a positive way.  Morning pillow fight to get his blood pumping?  Game of tag around the house before a shower? Turn on some rock and roll and dance around like an idiot? Tickle fest?  Serenade him with I've Got a Hammer?  FYI, that last one doesn’t work, but I enjoy seeing children drop to the floor and writhe around while covering their ears.

Try it, if you can stay playful and tolerate the up energy.  You can get replacement neuro-pathways constructed this way.

Understanding your child's behavior as a brain/body process, rather than a calculated, personal attack on you is important to your ability to meet your child with love. 

Love matters,



P.S. Are you pulling your hair out trying to figure out the best way to parent your child from difficult beginnings? Get some real support here: The Love Matters Parenting Society. Honestly, you probably need this.

P.S.S. You can also grab a copy of Drowning With My Hair On Fire: Insanity Relief for Adoptive Parents by yours truly. Parents really appreciate this bite-sized, inspiration. 

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