T is for Toddler – and Tantrums Too

Kim HeadshotBy Kim, The New (Toddler) Mom

It’s official. My baby isn’t a baby anymore (teardrop). I mean, he is MY baby, and will be forever – but as we got closer and closer to his first birthday I started to observe some real changes. Slowly but surely, the tantrums and meltdowns were starting up. I thought this was what the “terrible two’s” were all about, but apparently, I was wrong. This phase can kick in right as you enter toddlerhood and I for one, was not ready. Not even close to being ready.

In some cases, I can make a clear connection about what is triggering these episodes. If we are at the park and it’s time to go, picking up my son and putting him in his stroller causes an immediate tantrum, complete with kicking, shrieking, arm throwing and tears. Lots of tears. If he gets his hands on something that he shouldn’t, and I take it away, again, meltdown. Limp bodied, lay out on the floor and act hysterical mode in FULL effect. And these aren’t easy situations to manage, but at least I can identify what is causing the reaction, because there are times when my son launches into a meltdown and it seems to have come from nowhere. Sometimes right in the middle of happily playing or having his dinner, something snaps and boom, he’s upset and having a fit.

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As a parent, it can be hard to know the right way to respond to this. It’s also really easy to forget, in the moment of a trying situation, that this little kid isn’t even close to being able to manage his emotions and impulses. While I am frustrated and wishing that he could just verbalize what the issue is, he is probably also frustrated that I don’t understand. What seems silly, trivial and completely irrational to me, as an adult – feels like a legitimate earth-shattering ordeal for them. I TRY to be mindful of these things, but sometimes it’s just plain hard.

Then I also have to weigh out my response. Does he just need a few minutes to chill out? If so, should I more or less ignore the behavior and let him get over it on his own? Maybe he needs a hug, a kiss and a little cuddling to reassure him that things will be ok? Another option is pulling out my best Elmo voice, singing him a song and redirecting his attention to something happy and positive.  I can honestly say that I’ve tried all of these at one point or another, with varying degrees of success.

Over time I have started to make some connections where now, I can sometimes anticipate the onset of a tantrum. This is HUGE – because then I can get in front of it (or at least try). This might mean taking a snack to the park so that when it’s time to leave I can offer him some fruit or crackers to have while we walk back home. Or maybe when I take my cell phone out of his hands, I give him one of his favorite toys to play with instead. Make no mistake, these don’t always work, but when they do it’s a WIN. If I’ve learned nothing else about momming, I’ve learned that it is full of changes that require me to figure out new strategies. It is a constantly evolving process. So, in honor of Sesame Street, T is for toddler and tantrums, but T is also for transition. Soon enough we will be transitioning to some new phase with new challenges, new milestones and new strategies to figure out. In the meanwhile, I remind myself that P is for patience.

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