Temper tantrums have arrived. They are pretty much a daily occurrence at our house now that Little A is 19 months old. Terrible two’s? They are in full swing and we still have months to go before the big 2nd birthday.
Reasons For Temper Tantrums:
- A wants to go upstairs
- A wants to go downstairs
- A wants a waffle for breakfast
- A actually wants oatmeal for breakfast
- A wants to FaceTime with Pop
- A wants to hang up on Pop
- A didn’t really want to hang up on Pop, and now wants to FaceTime again
- A wants to watch videos
- A wants to watch a different video
- Really…do I need to go on??
Anyone who has ever had a toddler, or known a toddler, or has actually been a toddler…knows that temper tantrums can happen anywhere, anytime, and for any number of reasons!
Watching my baby slowly, slowly transform into a little person has truly been (and continues to be!) the most amazing experience of my life. So much growth is happening at this stage in particular, during the early toddler years, that I can almost see the gears turning in A’s mind as she explores the world and is constantly discovering something new. She’s learning language at a crazy, fast pace, surprising us with new words each and every day. My favorite this week has been hearing her say, “hey, guys!” It’s a phrase I use all the time when talking to the kids I work with and randomly one day she just started saying it herself. She’s learning how to take care of herself: getting dressed (or rather, undressed), brushing her teeth, using a spoon and fork to eat, etc. She’s learning numbers, colors, shapes, the noises animals make, and so much more.
With all this new knowledge also comes a strong desire for independence. She wants to put on her shoes herself, but can’t quite manage to figure it out. She cries. She wants to sit in a particular chair in the living room, it doesn’t matter if someone is sitting there already. She says, “move!” She wants to play with a toy at the library, but the toy she wants is actually in another child’s hand. So, she grabs it. She wants me to pick her up when I’m washing dishes after dinner, even though her dad is right there, wanting to play with her. But she cries, “up, up” and starts hitting me when she doesn’t get my attention. She wants what she wants, when she wants it, and chaos ensues if she doesn’t get her way. She gets frustrated. She throws a tantrum. She doesn’t understand that you have to ask for help, or wait your turn, or share, or have patience. These ideas are totally foreign to a toddler!
So, what can be done? Sometimes, I want to cry and scream myself when A starts to have a tantrum. Sometimes, I have to hold back a laugh or hide a smile. (I can’t be the only one that does this, right?) More importantly, I have to stop myself from becoming angry or frustrated, and remind myself that temper tantrums are normal and A needs me to be calm and consistent, not tantruming like a toddler myself!
I only have two strategies for dealing with toddler tantrums. Every now and then, they actually work! They are: #1 Using the Power of Distraction and #2 No Attention At All (except to stop her from hurting herself, of course!)
Distracting A when I think a tantrum is coming on really only works if she hasn’t gone into the full-blown screaming and crying mode yet. Some ways I like to distract her:
- Did I just hear a dog? Listen! “Woof, woof.”
- I’m going to build the tallest tower. Can you knock it down?
- Where’s ducky? (She loves rubber ducks!)
If that doesn’t work, ignoring her is the only other option. When I asked our pediatrician about tantrums at A’s 18-month appointment, she instructed that we give her no attention at all. Don’t talk to her. Don’t hug her. And DO NOT give in to what she wanted in the first place. The worst thing we could do is let her cry for a few minutes, and then give in to what she was crying over, making her think she can get her way by throwing a temper tantrum. When she starts to throw a temper tantrum, Mr. Musings or I are always right there, ignoring her behavior but also making sure she doesn’t hurt herself. There have been times when I have moved her from the wood floor to the carpet, hoping she won’t throw herself on the hard floor and bang her head. Eventually, the tantrum ends and we can all move on with our day. Once she is done crying, I cuddle her and give her all the love and attention she needs.
Being the parent of a toddler isn’t always easy. I’m sure actually being a toddler is even less easy! Despite the temper tantrums, and all the stress and frustration that goes along with them, this phase of A’s young life is really magical. For every difficult moment we experience, there are 10 more happy, or funny, or adorable moments to enjoy. And it never ceases to amaze me that it’s always “mama” that A wants to comfort her. Even if I am the one that made her so mad in the first place!