Tuesday, July 16, 2013

How to Deal with Toddler Tantrums. Insert longest post ever.

I'm sorry if you landed on this page in hoping to finding the solution for a toddler tantrum. Yes? Don't go, yet. Maybe just reading about my personal experience will be the solution that you are looking for.  If not a solution, then maybe just a "I hear you" moment. Maybe if I had read about a personal experience years ago, we would have skipped through all the headaches and frustration, from the both of us. Well, that's probably unlikely, but maybe, actually, yes probably, I would have been more insightful and aware. Or maybe I wouldn't have been. Because after all, it is hard to tell what you would have been or what you would have done {or not} if a situation had changed. Or in this case, if you had read something.

You see, I'm not an expert here. I won't tell you what to do or what not to do with your child. I will tell you there were times where I did the wrong things, times where I said the wrong things, and times where I acted in a way that lead me to tears. Because toddlers? Crazy tantrums? They seem to bring out the ugly side in parenting. The side that you're all like... "that's not in me!" Yes, my friend, it is. And if it's not? Count yourself as lucky. Those tantrums somehow bring out the low-tolerance, on the edge, little patience of a parent that you know you are not.

When you hear that parenting is hard, that the "terrible twos" and even "tiresome threes" are challenging, and that it only gets "worse" before it gets "better", you'd be surprised to hear me say that it actually has nothing to do with the toddler. At all. That believe it or not, they are not doing it to upset you. They are not acting in a way to get back at you or to make you angry. They are not trying to go against your wishes or forget their "listening ears" on purpose. What they are doing? They are just being toddlers. Parenting is not hard because of of these children and them being and acting their age. Parenting is hard because we are not prepared for those things. That all those beautiful firsts of crawling, walking, and talking, are also accompanied by the crying, screaming, and misbehaving. They are all firsts and somehow we just are not as accepting of the changes that come our way.

And it's tough. It is hard to watch our beautiful, smiling, happy babies act in a way that we had never seen them act. It is hard for us to not blame it on ourselves, instinctively. It is hard for us not to get frustrated and quick to blame. But what is even harder for us, as parents, is to actually get to a point where we realize that this is normal and what these little human beings are doing is just being toddlers. Easy to say right? And I don't mean that we just sit back and say "well they are just being kids" while they tear down the house and scream in restaurants. Absolutely not. As parents, this is where we step in to guide them into the right direction. To teach them. To set the way for a healthy rode of coping mechanisms. Because this is what all of this is. Coping.

Toddlers go through so many changes during their learning and development. During those stages, they learn how to test boundaries, they learn that rules are set in place for a reason, and they learn that sometimes they cannot always get what they want. And it's frustrating. Because toddlers? You cannot reason with them. You can teach them. You can repeat over and over again. You can practice from experience. But reasoning? No.

What do I mean by this? For instance.

"Don't touch." Ah, yes, the phrase we say so very often. You see toddlers are born to touch. It is in their DNA. Actually, what it is, is them learning. By touching, by exploring, they are learning. Even if it means touching your makeup. Touching the dog's food. Touching the car that has dirt all over it. Touch touch touch. What they are doing though is trying to learn, and by us saying don't touch, we are inhibiting that learning. Do I say it? Oh boy, yes, I do. But what I have learned is the importance of instead explaining to them why not to touch. But first? Let them touch {unless it's the stove, obviously}. If it's my makeup? Touch it Elliana. And then, I explain what I use it for. I tell her that mommy needs to put it on before work and that it will get dirty on her fingers. Does this mean that she will never touch it again? No. But have I used an opportunity to teach? Yes? And in the future, I can remind her of this again. Do I reason with her? No. They don't have the development to understand. But if tantrums are thrown? We deal with them then. Counting. Time outs. And so forth.

As a parent, I cannot get frustrated to the fact that she wants to touch things. I cannot get frustrated by her not listening right away. By sitting down to her level, by taking the opportunity to talk to her, and by letting her know the consequences, then I know I have approached the situation in a way that I would later be proud of. Because that is important you know. To ask yourself, did you react in a way you would be proud of.

That's just one example. I could go through hundreds more, however, who has time for that?

Let me first tell you what brought on me wanting to write about this. The first experience of toddler tantrum that I can remember. And why I just want to share it with you.

You see, I remember the first moment that I cried because of our very first full blown public tantrum. We have not had many since then {public}, or if any at all {that I can remember}, but this one was enough to stay in my head. One year later.

To make this as short and sweet as possible, lets just say we went to toddler time around 19 months old. Elliana started throwing screaming and yelling from the minute we walked into the door {about who knows what}, and we did not even get an opportunity to take our coats off. I snatched her up, while still screaming, and carried her back to the car. She kicked and yelled the whole way to the car and while trying to strap her into the car seat. Arched back. The whole nine yards. I was tired {worked the night before}, hormonal {pregnant}, and easily on the edge. I screamed when we got home. I lost it. I sent her to her room and told her to go to sleep. She did. I went to my room and I cried. I thought about all the things I may have done wrong. How I could have handled the situation differently. If I was a bad mother.

The answer is no. I was not. But no one prepared me for the emotions that I had felt during those lousy few minutes. People tell you about the tantrums, the kicking, and screaming, and the defiance. Oh the defiance. But no one tells you about how you would feel and how normal all of this is. It's normal. We both slept, woke up and said our sorries, and we actually ended up having a really good day. Did the tantrums end there? No. Did we face, and continue to face, more challenges down the road? Sure. But in the heat of the moment, during a toddler tantrum, or when I know my patience is running thin, I try to remind myself {and my husband} that this is their way of coping and my opportunity to teach. The right way.

The key to this little {eh, long} message that I am writing today. All those tantrums? Toddler behaviors? No's and defiance? N O R M A L.

So now when my friends tell me their stories and voice their frustration over their toddler, or when I see other kids in public act up, I smile and say... it's normal. Do we correct them when appropriate? Absolutely. Do we guide them and teach them every chance we get? Certainly. But we, as parents, still need to be reminded that this is all normal, a stage, a developmental milestone, and one of the most important periods of a child's life to learn how to cope.

I still find myself at times struggling with my frustration and patience. I'm always looking for new ways to teach and deal with tantrums. I'm far from perfect and I'm in no way an expert. But boy do I love my children. And boy do I want to set the way to a happy healthy life. So to me? We can all make mistakes. We can all learn from our experiences. And we can all learn a thing or two from these little toddlers and their tantrums.

So next time you're the lucky mom with the screaming kid, just remember This too shall pass.

And if next time you see a mom with the lucky screaming kid? Give her a smile. She'll know that you've been there. She'll know that it will be okay.

She'll know that this is all just normal.


  1. just to read these last few sentences made everything worth it. absolutely a mother with a screaming child needs to see a smile.
    you are fantastic becky.

  2. ps. this is one of my favorite posts ever about tantrums and handling them. maybe you will like it as well. it just made me feel relaxed, at ease. confident.
    it is written by TheBabyGuyNYC's sister, if you know him from reviews or anything.. but thats besides the point.


  3. Ever since I became a Mom I keep telling everyone I know that I will NEVER judge ANY parent with a screaming child. Things happen. It is easy to judge when you are so far removed from their reality. But once you know? You JUST know it is normal. Good post! We have ALL been there!

  4. What a awesome post and something I totally needed to read. Again great post as always.

  5. Thank you for posting! We had a rough night with Miss P not eating or wanting to try anything we made for dinner. Then she proceeded to spit out everything she put in her mouth and wipe it on the wall.
    Patience! :)

  6. You are such a phenomenal mother. I hope and pray when Harper reaches E's age, that I'll remember this!

  7. Even though my little one is only 6 months old I do find myself losing my patience when its been a long day and he wont go to sleep, so this really spoke to me today. I hope I hold on to these words as he grows.

  8. Very well said! I remember Madison's very first tantrum at the Little Gym for the first time. I wanted to walk out of that place crying from embarrassment and frustration but one of the other moms said "it's normal, my daughter acted like that her first few visits, it's ok, she'll get use to it." That alone made me feel SO much better and helped me realize that children will be children and we can't expect them to act like we would in certain situations, especially new ones.

    I've also learned not to just say no but use it as an opportunity to teach just as you've stated. All of this is is something I've had to learn through experience, trial and error and a bit of crying as well. I too, wish someone would have explained it to me beforehand! But then again parenting tends to be one of those CONSTANT "on the job training" type of situations, lol!

  9. Awesome post!! Thanks so much for sharing. I most definitely know where your coming from. Lol

  10. I think it really is a case-by-case basis and is different for each parent, you got it!

    Sparkles and Shoes


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