My son is two and a half years old, and has been pretty consistently angelic for the majority of his life. Lately, he’s showing me the other side of his personality. The deep sea monster that is always lurking just below the surface of calm waters. Just when you think the day is going great … WHAM! The monster breaks through the surface, causing confusion, panic and destruction.
I am pregnant, and find it hard to keep my patience intact when this happens. I feel like I do a pretty good job most of the time, but I’ve got a lurking sea monster in me too … I just have slightly better control over it.
A tantrum will never really pop up when you think it will, either. They happen at the most inconvenient times, or when you least expect it. Maybe one will strike when you’re out to dinner and you tell them not to lick that fork they just picked up off the floor. It might occur because they requested milk and you took too long to fetch it, or you put it in the ‘wrong’ cup. Heck, sometimes they say milk and mean something else, like water … but of course it’s your fault for not knowing that ahead of time! My son will lose his MIND if he is eating something and it breaks in half. Does that make sense? Nope. But it really breaks his little heart and causes mass chaos for a minute or two.
Here are a couple of ways I’ve found to avoid these tantrums and tips for dealing with them when they occur:
Don’t walk them around the toy aisle at Target unless you want to spend all day there, or buy hundreds of dollars worth of toys. I personally enjoy looking at toys too, so I’ve put myself in this position numerous times. It doesn’t end well. The last time I was there I found myself saying “OK let’s go look at the next thing” to my crying child as I pried him away from a $.99 Paw Patrol toy. An employee walked by, looked over at us and said “you know, you brought this on yourself.” I chuckled and agreed but ever since then I’ve been annoyed at this man. You don’t know my life, sir! You’re right … but you don’t need to say anything! Seeing all of the cool toys and hearing “not today buddy, let’s keep looking” over and over again is bound to bring on a tantrum in even the most level headed kids. Let’s just put it this way, toddlers are not great at window shopping.
Make sure you’re listening to your kid. It’s sometimes hard to intently listen when 90% of what they say is “mom! mommy! mom. mom. mama!” which is one of my son’s favorite games lately. When a child doesn’t feel ‘heard’ they can get really frustrated. Trust me. One of my husband’s favorite games lately is to pretend like he doesn’t understand my son, and he will repeat the wrong thing back to him which get’s my son all sorts of frustrated.
Listening to them doesn’t always have to do with what they are saying, but maybe how they are feeling. Tantrums tend to creep up when kids are hungry, tired, too excited, frustrated, or hurt. I see people all the time out with their young children shopping or at an event after 9 or 10 p.m., and the kid is crying and throwing a fit. The parents are frustrated and annoyed, but it seems clear to me that those kids are probably exhausted! If you have to be out that late with your kid, at least have a little extra patience with them.
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve learned how to tame my “sea monster” and can keep it under wraps most of the time. Little kids weren’t born knowing how to cope with the big feelings they have. Having to share, not getting the right color plate at dinner, or having to go home before they feel they are ready are hard things for little kids. Most of the stuff they throw fits over seem inconsequential to us, but it’s huge to them! It’s important that we remind ourselves that they are learning and figuring life out, just like us. We have had a lot more years to practice these things.
It’s not our job to throw a tantrum with them or lose our cool (even though sometimes it totally happens). We need to be the calm in the storm, their safe space. Even when they act like real jerks or hit, spit or kick. I’ll be honest, the couple times my son has hit me when he is mad really made me want to pop him back. It’s so hard to reign in our instincts and knee jerk reactions sometimes! I always have to tell myself, what would I be teaching him if I retaliated by “hitting” him back?
I have found that getting on their level and talking in low tones can calm them down sometimes. It won’t help if we are both trying to fight to be louder, and if you’re talking calmly and quietly, they may quiet down to hear what you’re saying. This has worked for me. Not every time … but it helps keep me calm too, if nothing else.
Another thing to try as far as getting them to calm down is practicing deep breaths. Hold your fingers up and have them ‘blow out the candles’. It might take them one or two tries, and the candles will flicker, but they need a nice big breath to really blow them out.
You could try a “Daniel Tiger” tactic and count backward from five. That one worked with my son at dinner the other night, actually. He stopped crying as he watched me use my fingers to count backward. Another method Daniel uses is to “Stomp three times to make yourself feel better.”
Grab them some water, and either sit with them until they calm down, or if they need some space, give it to them.
The toddler years are not easy. They learn so much so fast, and while they are processing all of the new and exciting things they are learning, they have to deal with the same emotions that we deal with. That’s a lot for a tiny body. No wonder they need nap time! Even if your toddler has outgrown their nap, try having an hour of quiet time after lunch. I tell my son we need to rest to get energy for all the fun we will have later in the day. Let them read, watch a quiet TV show, or even just play with quiet toys in their room. My son still naps but I plan on having a quiet time for as long as I can after he gives the nap up!
Don’t forget: we are in this together. Moms and dads, we are all going through similar things as our children grow. Don’t hesitate to call up a friend and ask for advice, or just complain. They will totally get it. Get out every now and then if you can! Make mom friends! This is SO important as they will often help you maintain your sanity and help you get out of the house. These ladies also understand that you might need another cup of coffee (or wine) because you have “had a day” with your little one. Chances are, they have too.
We got this. Enjoy the sweet moments in between the sour ones and try to find humor in the things that usually get on your nerves. It’s no big deal. We WILL overcome these toddler years!