Thursday 8th of January, 2015
As a mum of two toddlers, I have to admit that on some days, the “terrible twos” well deserve their reputation. But as an educator, I’m constantly reminding myself that there is actually no medical proof of this ‘terrible twos’ stage. It’s a constant struggle, but I try my best (sometimes very, very hard!) to remember that the reason why my toddlers throw tantrums is because they’re at a point where they understand more than they can express. That’s when children start to bite, cry, whine, scream, kick, hit, throw things, and even hold their breaths.
As a parent it’s important to understand why these tantrums happen so you can nip the problem in the bud, so to speak. Toddlers can’t always express themselves coherently, so be patient and try different approaches to calm them down. Our son was throwing tantrums when he was tired and couldn’t express or recognize that he was tired. So when he’s in a mood, I take him aside to say, “I know you are tired, I get tired too…” and give him alternative options for him to express his feelings. It’s not an overnight solution, toddlers don’t have the greatest memories so don’t be frustrated when you find yourself doing the same thing after every tantrum. Keep at it (even I remind myself this!)
Teaching children has taught me that temper tantrums don’t have to be a “thing” that toddlers – and parents – endure. My greatest tip is to plan for your toddler’s moods. Yes, I am sometimes faced with ugly meltdowns in public, but I try as much as possible to prepare for situations. If I know they will be uncomfortable and try to seek attention, I present them with alternatives like books, toys or a snack. I cannot emphasize how important sleep is to young children; if your toddler throws tantrums when they’re tired, plan to tackle activities after (or after) naptime. Don’t push their limits by taking them out of the house when they’re tired.
What I often see are parents giving in to their children when faced with a screaming toddler, especially in public. I admit – I’ve done the same. Sometimes you pick your battles! There are times when you are frustrated, tired, and frankly, embarrassed that your toddler is acting out, especially in public. But I have learnt from experience that giving in to your child when they’re kicking and crying is only going to teach them they will get what they want when they throw a tantrum. Instead, wait till your child has regained control over their emotions before comforting them. Don’t take your frustration out on your child either – this just leads to an escalated tantrum.
I know there are many (hypothetical) ways to avoid temper tantrums – I’ve spent many late nights Googling for solutions too. One simple trick that I do is to try to give my children control over small things. Of course, one has to be smart about these things – and I’ve learnt that the option ‘no’ should be cut out of the equation as much as possible. For example, when asking what they would like to wear, give them options between two outfits. Or ask them if they would like to brush their teeth before or after their bath (note: don’t ask “would you like to brush your teeth now?”). Giving them ownership over these small decisions will build their independence and decrease the likelihood of tantrums.
Remember that at the end of the day (tantrum-filled or not), it’s important to remind your toddler that you love him or her. The last thing you want is for them to start throwing tantrums to seek negative attention because they feel you don’t care!