You know the warning signs – the stiffening of the small body, the indrawn breath, and the red face. Within moments your toddler can be in the middle of full-blown toddler tantrums, often in the most inconvenient place possible, and every person within a mile is watching to see how you handle it. Is there a parent on the planet that hasn’t sometimes felt tempted to lay down and scream alongside?
When you’re facing a daily onslaught, it’s sometimes hard to remember that the ‘terrible twos’ are an important stage of your child’s development. Your two-year-old is desperate to explore the world and do things her way but doesn’t have the understanding and the vocabulary to tell you. The result…toddler tantrums that exhaust you and leaving your child upset and scared at the intensity of her own emotions. If you’re going through this stage (and rest assured it IS just a stage!) then this survival guide will help you.
Look for the trigger points
It probably feels as though your youngster throws a toddler tantrums about anything and everything, but try making a note of what sets him off over a few days and you’re likely to see a pattern. Once you know the trigger points, you can head him off with some cunning strategies. If your child gets angry about what clothes to wear, give him a choice of two outfits and do the choosing the night before.
If it’s about refusing to hang his coat up, buy a ‘fun’ coat peg, or if he hates tidying their toys, put some lively music on and make it a crazy game. Toddlers can rarely resist a challenge, such as ‘Can we finish tidying before the music finishes?’
Stay calm yourself
This is a really difficult one because when you’re dealing with the tenth meltdown that day, it takes a superhuman effort to keep your cool and rise above it. But a volcano of emotions is scary for your toddler, and although you may think she’s too far gone to notice, the way you react has a huge effect. Keep a calm voice and speak reassuringly, even if you don’t feel too calm on the inside (you can always go and kick the wall out of sight when she’s calmed down!).
Try mindfulness breathing techniques to keep your heart rate steady and release stress. Acknowledge that your routine is disrupted, or that your kid is rattling the windows in the local library, and try to accept the inevitable.
Ignore those around you
We’ve all heard horror stories about onlookers offering unhelpful advice or being downright critical, but unless you’re causing your child real harm, how you handle their behavior is your own concern. Onlookers fall into two camps: those whose child didn’t have tantrums (rare!), and those who feel your pain and are probably thinking ‘I’m so glad it’s not me anymore’.
Hopefully, you’ll be getting sympathetic looks rather than accusing ones, but ignore any negative responses and simply focus on your child. toddler tantrums are not deliberate and your child’s not ‘being naughty’ – she’s just learning to deal with some big emotions.
Be ready to offer comfort
When little Johnny is kicking his feet and chewing the carpet, there’s not much you can do except wait it out. But once the toddler tantrums have subsided, he will feel distressed, tired, and in need of some big-time reassurance that the world hasn’t ended. He’ll need a cuddle, maybe a warm drink, and perhaps even a nap, so be ready to offer lots of love and comfort, even if you feel a bit frayed around the edges yourself.
Talk about it afterward
Once everything has calmed down, talk to your toddler in simple terms about what triggered her tantrum and how she felt. Keep it simple, such as ‘You got angry because Mommy wouldn’t buy you candy, but screaming and shouting only makes you feel bad’. By helping her to verbalize things in a way that’s easy to understand, you’ll find in time that she can tell you she’s angry rather than explode in fury.
Believe it or not, there will be a time when you look back and laugh. Truly epic toddler tantrums will eventually become the stuff of family legend to be retold time and again.
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