Let me first start by saying the term “terrible twos” is extremely misleading.
Liam is just on his way out of two years old, and his tantrums have reached a climax.
As Liam continues to develop and mature, I’ve really been paying attention to my BabyCentre articles on how his mind develops at this age and all the explanations for his behaviours. When I had Aava with me, I’m ashamed to say I was not so open-minded. Even with Liam now, I find myself getting frustrated because for them both, I believe they’re so intelligent for their age; I’m guilty of expecting them to simply “know better”.
Well let me tell you. The anger, frustration and downright helplessness you feel during your toddler’s worse shitfest…
… is all completely normal.
And at that age… they really don’t know any better.
As a child becomes more emotional from year 1 to 5, tantrums are their way of expressing these emotions and are often worse when they’re younger for the obvious reason that they cannot verbally express these feelings.
But, don’t let tantrums bring you down. Here’s how to tackle them head on.
First of all, it’s not your fault.
It often never is. The best (worse) thing about tantrums? They’re sometimes (always), caused by absolutely nothing at all. Yes, your child can be legit on the floor foaming at the mouth and screaming at the top of his lungs… because he can. If that sounds horrible, it’s because it really is. It’s one thing to have a newborn baby crying constantly and not know why, but you easily have a choice of no more than five scenarios: hunger, thirst, wet diaper, too hot or ill. There’s a solution to all those problems. But a toddler having a tantrum? No list of possibilities is too long, my friend.
Understandably, this can be upsetting. You start to wonder what you’ve done wrong and why what you’re doing is not helping. But I promise you you’re not failing as a mother. It helps to realise that this is their way of asking for help in what they view as an overwhelming situation. Liam once had a tantrum because the Velcro on his school shoes weren’t sticking down.
I kid you not.
During their tantrums it helps to keep in mind that you’re there to offer support and not take it personally.
Assess the need for intervention.
All tantrums were not created equal. Some tantrums may be minor upsets which can be allowed to fizzle out on its own with little to no interruption from you. I have learnt the hard way that tantrums can actually be magnified if you interrupt. I’m not proud to say I literally have first hand experience. As a mother, it may be hard to witness your toddler crying and not react or wish to cuddle them and make it all better.
But sometimes, its better to tough it out.
When Liam is having one of his whimpy tantrums, and by that I mean whiny with no real crying, its often caused by him not getting his way. I once had to bear-wrestle him out of the road and into our car because time at the play park had come to an end. That tantrum lasted for 45 minutes.
You know why? Granted, he had skipped his usual daily nap so he was somewhat sleep-deprived. But the real catalyst? John kept talking to him. “Liam, you’re going to hurt yourself”, “Liam, it’s ok”, “Come, Liam, let’s get a bath”. All the while Liam is literally screaming his head off. Once in the bath, Liam really starts to spazz. And there’s John, “Liam, stop you’re going to hurt yourself”, “Liam, don’t do that!” Tantrum x 100.
This is a classic example of adding fuel to the fire.
Don’t do it.
If you must take action with a toddler having a tantrum, the less amount of words you use, the better. If toddler is having a tantrum and its time for a bath, pick that little bottom off the floor and start the bath. It sounds harsh, but I promise you action is a better distraction than conversation.
Let’s be real: no situation has ever actually been calmed down by someone being told to “Calm down”.
I nudged a negotiating John out of the way and started the bath and began bathing Liam without a word. Tantrum ended, and Liam was asleep within 10 minutes.
There’s no negotiating with terrorists.
I kid, I kid.
Breathe. And repeat.
The worse possible thing that can happen to a toddler tantrum is a mother tantrum. If your toddler is losing her shit, it’s most certainly not going to help if you’re losing your shit, too. Try to remain calm; its easier said than done. But, remember, children are very intuitive and often feed off of our vibe. So, if you’re tense, its only going to amplify the situation.
Just breathe, count to ten if you need to before attending to the tantrum. It also helps you decide with a clearer mind how major of a tantrum it is and therefore how it needs to be dealt with.
All very methodical, I know. Toddlers really are complicated.
Someone, please write a manual.
Tantrums are tough, I know. Despite how hard they can be, toddlers just want our attention ALL the time. Even when they’re doing things on their own, they still wish to have some sort of validation from us; it’s nature really. The best step you can take after a tantrum is over is to speak to them about their actions and make sure they know they are loved whether they’re good or bad.
Because, what else can you say to a toddler who has a tantrum because he can’t get rid of his shadow?