When it comes to toddler tantrums and/or meltdowns, I think we all can agree that it is no picnic in the park. It’s quite rocky. It’s real tough. Being a first time Mama, I’ve learned that HOW you deal with a tantrum will actually determine:
- how long it lasts
- how bad it gets
- how sane you leave once it’s over (haha!)
While there is no real manual or a one-size fits all kind of solution, there have been a few tactics that I have used, which has helped me tremendously during those “oh so uncomfortable/overwhelming moments”. Be sure to keep reading to see the steps I’ve taken. But first, let’s chat! Isn’t it insane how your little one can be perfectly fine one minute and then something “triggers” and then they turn into the incredible hulk or something? It’s like night and day. Just one right “no” can have them going down a downward spiral. Like OMG! What the heck just happened? I know, Mamas. It’s pretty crazy!
The funny thing is that I’ve realized that toddler tantrums are a part of “the process”. That wretched process. Unfortunately, toddlers don’t fully understand how to display their anger/frustrations appropriately and sometimes they aren’t able to communicate how and why they’re feeling what they’re feeling. They simply understand that the feeling is “unpleasant” and they want it to stop. Couple that with your answer of “no” or maybe a feeling of being forbidden to do/have something and BOOM! They’re off! Oh and I’ve learned that once it begins, it’s super hard to end (most times!). It’s like a switch that turns on without an option of the off button (or at least not for the next million years or so it feels, especially when in public). Interesting enough, before having my little one, I often saw Mamas with their toddlers who were apparently having a complete overload meltdown and I always thought to myself, “wow! how could they let that happen?”. Well, I do apologize Mamas for my pre-judgement. I understand now. Realizing that toddler tantrums are in no way correlated to a lack of parenting, lack of discipline, or anything else for that matter, makes me a lot more empathetic to other Mamas alike. I now understand that it’s just something that HAPPENS (even to the most respectable, well-behaved child). It’s OK, mamas! I feel your pain.
Below are some tried and true ways that I’ve dealt with my toddler’s tantrum (often with success!):
- Don’t lose your cool. (They do sense emotions and will feed off of those emotions!)
- Remember that you’re the adult. (Not in the way of having the “power”, but in the way of ignoring their bad behavior, which let’s them know that they can’t influence your decision because of how they act.)
- Sympathize. (Once again, your child may be frustrated or uneasy and just doesn’t understand how to respond. Be sure to let them know that you understand and are here for them, even when they aren’t the easiest to handle.)
- Talk it over after. (Once they’ve calmed down, be sure to have a conversation about what happened, why it shouldn’t happen, and better ways for them to respond.)
- Diffuse it at it’s onset! (One of my favorite tactics! Once you realize that something is causing a bit of distress to your child, remove them from the situation altogether or distract.)
- Rule out boredom or need for attention. (There are times that I’ve noticed that my little one may be bored or wants our attention so he begins throwing things and being a bit mischievous. Ensure that this is ruled out to prevent an entire meltdown.)
So, anyway, now that my little one has crossed the 2-year old threshold (a.k.a. “the terrible twos!), I do see that his tantrums have gotten to be a bit more amplified. The funny thing is that my little one has always been a “challenge” when it comes to his short-fused temperament since he was a baby, so I didn’t think that there was such thing as the “terrible-twos” with him at least. BUT I WAS WRONG! Our recent trip to the Doctor’s office for his 2-year checkup last week was an epic one. Usually, our Pediatrician visits are on the heavy side in terms of his ultra awareness to the environment. He might become a bit more quiet. Maybe even restless at times. However, once he’s in the patient room, he’s a little less tense until his breathing is getting checked with the stethoscope or he sees that it’s time for shots. No biggy! Who wouldn’t be tense if all their life, each time that they would visit “this man or woman”, they would feel pain by getting a shot? It’s understandable. But this time (while in his true toddler-ship) was the craziest, most embarrassing time EVER.
So, he’s tense during our wait in the waiting area per usual, and is a little scared during his weigh-in and height check, which isn’t beyond the norm for him, especially with strangers and all these big, strange machines. However, the true test doesn’t come until we walk into the patient room and is greeted by his Pediatrician. He begins with sitting with his dad (on his lap) and then decides to come over to me as I’m talking with his pediatrician about his cognitive skills and motor skills (based on a worksheet given to us in the waiting room, which is a part of his 2-year checkup). Per usual, he wants to nurse (as a way of comfort) and we precede to do so as a way of keeping him calm during this visit (since he’s a lot more aware of everything!). Well, his pediatrician precedes to take out a little wooden frog that makes the “ribbit” sound when you brush a wooden handheld piece to it’s top ridges. It’s pretty cool and my little one was pretty amazed (but still wasn’t warming up to the Dr. just yet). So she kept demonstrating it until she decides to place it on the desk in front of us so that he could play with it on his own as we continue speaking. Lo and behold, my little one wants me to take the frog from the table for him, as a way of by-passing the possible risk of the Dr. seeing him “vulnerable” and wanting the toy. But as I go to do so, his Pediatrician stops me in my tracks and says that he needed to get it himself if he wanted it. AND IT BEGINS!!!
He starts tugging on my hand uncontrollably, while first whining. I ignore it so that he wouldn’t assume that this was the way to get what he wants, but that doesn’t work. Then he begins to get louder, while thrusting himself violently while on my lap.
5, 4, 3, 2, 1!!
Before you know it, his cries (or screams if we’re honest) becomes so loud and unbearable, that we all (Dr. included) had to quickly try to conclude his visit, get through each checkup with velocity, and dash through the Pediatrician’s office to get some fresh air for all of us. Unfortunately, his tantrum did not subside as his dad walked around outside, hushing, and singing with desperation for him to stop. At this point, his dad had him held in his arms, however, he seemingly reached over to indicate that he wanted me. I held him tight in my arms (exhausted and overwhelmed by this entire ordeal) and walked with him several blocks before he finally calmed down. Parched of course, I gave him his half water, half juice-filled sippy cup (after he gestured that he was thirsty) and the rest was history. It was then that I knew that this kind of thing really JUST HAPPENS and as much as we prep ourselves for this moment, we can never be fully prepared. I also realized, that his trigger was not really the frog toy (or stubbornness of wanting me to grab it for him), but his overall discomfort with the environment on a whole, which made it impossible to calm him down while still inside. But my advice to you is: Never give up! There will be days that seem easier and more accomplished than others (when it comes to handling motherhood’s worst moments), but don’t cave in to the days that aren’t as successful as you’d like. You’re doing a great job regardless and your little one believes this also. Sometimes, we just have an “off day” and that’s OK.
**For more in-depth ways on how to manage your child’s tantrum, you can check out an article from Babycenter.com: Here!