What Moana Taught Me About Tantrums



I could talk for DAYS about how much I love Disney’s Moana. And you should know: I think Disney movies are okay, I definitely grew up on them, but I’m hardly a Disney fangirl. So when I say all I have for Moana is the highest praise, you know I’m not messing around.

(This should go without saying, but SPOILERS AHEAD. Consider yourself warned!)


While watching the movie for the first time, I cried more than once. And then I watched it again. And again. My kids like it a lot too, and you know how kids get about their favorite movies. *eyeroll*

But when I watched it for the 73rd time or so, a scene near the end hit me like a giant fishhook to the feels. Moana is walking through the ocean toward Te-Ka, singing gently to a raging lava monster, calm and collected like she knows exactly what she’s doing.

I have crossed the horizon to find you
I know your name
They have stolen the heart from inside you
But this does not define you
This is not who you are
You know who you are
Who you truly are

Even though my children might act like it sometimes, they are not monsters. The screaming, crying, stomping, sassing, hitting, rage-inducing tantrums? That behavior does not define them.

This is not who they are.

What Moana taught me about tantrums

Who they are is beautiful and brave, silly and sweet, curious and kind, generous and gentle…and human. They make mistakes. And I love them anyway.

When my children throw fits, it’s not because they are terrible humans. It’s usually because they are caught up in their emotions: frustration, disappointment, even anger. Maybe they don’t know how to process or express those emotions yet, because they’re still so small. They forget the rules. They can be incredibly selfish. They easily get tired and hungry and over-stimulated, which makes self-control so much harder.

Regardless, I know who they are. I know they are better than the raging lava monster they sometimes act like.

And I have a choice. I can treat them like Maui treats Te-Ka, with anger of my own, threatening punishment, fighting tooth and nail to put them in their place. Or I can respond as Moana does: gently and lovingly. Remaining calm and collected, like I know exactly what I’m doing.

(I don’t, by the way, but I can sure pretend I do.)

As a parent, I can either feed the lava monster illusion with my own rage, or I can model peace and patience. When I validate their feelings, they know I’m listening and they feel understood. Even with the crabbiest toddler, I’ve learned that a calm reaction always has better results than screaming back and lashing out.

It’s sooooo much harder to react that way. My kids start screeching and often my first thought is, I am bigger and louder and YOU WILL LISTEN TO ME.

It backfires every time.

I know better.

They know better, too. I just need to help them remember who they are.

What moana taught me about tantrums


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