Toddlers and Tantrums
There is no way through toddler-hood without tantrums. As a friend of mine once told me, ‘it’s their job to push and learn, and our job to teach.’ For me that is basically the foundation of tantrum land.
Where things go astray, certainly for me , is when I am tired or in a mood myself, my patient teacher hat flies off quicker than I care to admit. But we go on, we all learn and move on. Part of this learning is also giving yourself a break sometime, because shame is never a positive state to be in. Moving back to kid tantrums though….
Tantrums happen, unsurprisingly, out of frustration. As kids start to communicate, start to understand that they can have things, or watch things or do things; when things don’t go their way or they are not understood they act out. Sounds familiar? You react much the same way but you don’t throw yourself on the floor anymore! Tantrums can happen on a grander scale when kids are tired, hungry, bored or over stimulated.
Aside from tiredness and hunger, if you know something is likely to set your child off, avoid it. For me, it’s my local IGA. I used to go in there all the time to top up shop but as they keep all the lollies at child height I can’t go in there anymore. My little one wants lollies and then loses it when I say no. This is something you learn the hard way.
Stay Calm, You've Got This
When the inevitable flare ups do happen, take a deep breath and try to stay calm. Harder on some days than others, but do your absolute best. Whatever you do, forget about the world around you. Don’t worry about anyone else. Every single person around you did the same thing at that age. And their kids did the same too. Be Elsa and let it go. The sooner you are able to find a way to help your little one through this, and the sooner they understand how to deal with these feelings the quicker you will get through it. So, in the moment, think about the long term teaching opportunity rather than the short term melt down. I know, easy said…. I’ve been there. Let them have their moment, and when you see it slowing down make your peace offering.
Distraction – My partner is amazing at this. I should rent him out. I can’t get my head around a good distraction in the moment, too stressed (see point 2). But in all seriousness, I have seen him turn a tantrum into giggles in 30 seconds flat. It’s a talent. The key is very quickly looking around and trying to find something your child will be interested in. For us, it’s a dog or a truck - garbage trucks are gold, with diggers coming in a close second; helicopters, planes – anything!!! I did once read not to reward in any way with food as it can teach unhealthy associations with food, but that is about the only thing that I don’t try. This approach really works. If you can get this happening before the full melt down, even better.
See Eye to Eye - Get On Their Level
Standing over a child when they are either winding up to or in full melt down will not help. It is innately aggressive and serves no purpose in that moment. If you need to stand back and let them have their moment, do so if it’s not dangerous. Otherwise come down to their level and try to talk through the situation; distract and / or acknowledge the frustration they are experiencing. The best and easiest book that I have come across about toddlers is by Dr Harvey Karp, The Happiest Toddler on The Block. He goes through in great, but easy to digest, detail about the whole tantrum process and great ways to deal with it. Including things like, repeating your child’s words of upset so they know that you have understood and heard them; teaching them how to express their feelings; and talking to them in “Toddler-ese” which turns adult language into toddler language to help little ones understand through repetition and simplicity what you are trying to get across.
Talk About It After
One of the things we always do with our kids is talk about whatever happened once everything is calm. You need to do it quickly, they forget after 30 mins that anything even happened. But it’s worth doing. If I haven’t been patient I always apologise. And we talk through why I said no to something. It’s an opportunity for them to vent without the anger. Toddler-ese comes in handy here too. And repeating their concerns and acknowledging the reason for their anger is really important too.
You’re doing a great job. It’s not always easy. But when you look at their sweet little faces and hear their cute little giggles, it’s so worth it!!!