As adults there’s no denying we have our illogical, irrational angry moments. We might claim to be perfect but it’s likely at some point we’ve got angry that our favourite Netflix series has been discontinued, or the person in front of you got the last Krispy Kreme you wanted, and in your mind you’re playing out a scene of throwing them head first out the shop (just me?), and now your day feels a little bit worse. Thankfully the logic in your brain kicks in and means on 9/10 occasions you breathe, move on, find another show to watch, and get an alternative pastry-based product, but deep down you want to wallow in self-pity for a little while.
As children, it’s a different situation, your social barriers are forming, the world around you is new on a regular basis every day, you’re learning right and wrong based on your actions and generally you don’t really know if you’re coming or going. Because of that, someone taking the last doughnut warrants tears, another child taking your toy seems to require whaling, and it seems only right to throw yourself on the floor with a scream because you’ve been told not to draw on the wall with a Sharpie (parents are so horrible).
We’re warned of the ‘Terrible Two’s’, like we should batten down the hatches and prepare a survival plan for the day after your child’s second birthday, waiting for some demon reincarnation of your child to greet you in the morning. For us, that wasn’t the case. We didn’t have an angelic, rule-abiding child all the time, but I did start to think the terrible two’s were a vicious rumour. Well, like any idyllic situation as a parent, you can always expect something to come and piss on your parade, toddlers are built that way. The thing is, just because it didn’t happen as the clock struck 12 on our daughter’s birthday, didn’t mean it wasn’t going to happen at all. Look at us now, not so smug, and really quite stressed on a daily basis.
Just to give you an example of some of the illogical reasons we’ve experience full-blown tantrums or what I like to call ‘Hurricane Ivy’:
- “I didn’t want you to zip my coat up…” *unzips coat*, “I don’t want it unzipped!!”
- a drink of squash was requested, but without water, to which I explained you have to dilute squash with water. Cue baffled brain and eruption of emotions
- “My sock doesn’t feel right” *takes sock off* “MY FEET ARE COLD!”
- When playing shop keeper, I didn’t ‘take the birthday cake home before eating it’ and pretended to eat the imaginary cake there and then. Cue head in hands meltdown (damn my greediness!)
- The gingerbread man from the bakery was “too crunchy”
- The car in front wasn’t “going quicker” when at a red light. It appears Ivy already has my road rage.
These are just a few of many many moments like this and I know millions of parents out there could share similar stories. Whenever I talk about issues like tantrums and how to potentially overcome them, it’s not because we’ve mastered them, it’s usually because we’ve tried and succeeded on a few occasions, failed on many occasions, and to be honest for me personally, continue to do so today. But here’s a few things we do:
‘oh piss off, easier said than done’ I hear you say, and yep I agree. What a crap bit of advice. You have a 3 year old screaming in your face because they refuse to eat their ‘favourite’ dinner you’ve lovingly prepared for the last 40 minutes and we’re expected to maintain a level of calm and say ‘I hear you darling, but please just try it’ on repeat until they eventually eat the meal. When really we’d rather shout, bin the food and walk off (maybe just me). My wife is leaps and bounds ahead of me when it comes to calmly addressing the meltdowns and I can assure you it works a lot better than getting into a shouting match over eating broccoli. Breathe, take a moment, remember they’re young and learning. Alternatively, go into another room a scream repeatedly into a pillow.
If you hadn’t noticed, your toddler can go from drawing, to another toy, to wanting to go outside, to wanting to paint in the matter of minutes. Distractions play a big part of their every day life. When you feel a storm brewing it can sometimes be as simple as offering food, or suggesting walking somewhere to take their mind of the fact they’re unhappy about the situation at hand. Take toys, take snacks, ultimately you know what works.
Get to the bottom of it
Despite how irrational some tantrums can seem, it doesn’t hurt to try and understand why they are so upset. Being the person I am means I have created a child that gets ‘hangry’ at the drop of a hat. So, in many cases it’s a case of being hungry and having a dip in blood sugar levels. But that’s not always the case. Before we reach for the ‘naughty step’ out of the armoury, try and understand what’s going on.
The panicky public showdown
Have you been in the park and it’s time to go home and you suddenly find your child lying on their back, shouting, refusing to move (how do they make themselves so heavy?) and you feel like the world is watching, other parents are looking on with sympathy, some people are judging, and in reality the majority don’t really care. But it feels like all eyes on you. Don’t panic, grit your teeth through your flustered face, and approach the situation like you would any other time. Alternatively, a toddler over the shoulder and a quick walk away from the staring eyes of others can alleviate the stress.
Tantrums are inevitable and toddlers will continue to test us, but I hope we all make it through relatively unscathed.