Our kids are at the age where tantrums are inevitable and for us moms we at times don’t know how to handle it. Do we yell and then get mad at ourselves, do we ignore, or we hide in a closet till it passes. We are at a loss. We thought it’s the terrible two (those actually weren’t as bad for us), terrible threes was more like it, we then thought it was coming to an end and someone called it the f****** fours and it was true! How can these sweet little kids turn on us so quickly?? Besides asking our mom friends how they handle it we asked our favorite pediatrician Dr. Owens from Willows Pediatrics for some help for our sanity and then decided we need to help the rest of you struggling with the same thing! We got this mama’s nothing; a little advice and wine can help!
We’ve all been there. Your child’s tear-streaked face and loud cries in the grocery store are drawing the attention, and judgement, of strangers. We can’t help but wonder if it is our fault. Should we have just let her have that sugary cereal she was demanding?
Tantrums are universal in the toddler and pre-school age group. So let’s talk about how to manage them.
First, avoidance. I don’t mean give your child everything he or she wants, but if there are certain situations you know will lead to a tantrum, they can be avoided, or at least manipulated. If getting dressed in the morning is a trigger, have him pick out his clothes the night before. If getting into the car seat is a struggle, prepare her with a 5-minute warning, a one-minute warning, a silly countdown from 10, and a special book or favorite playlist that are only permissible when she is strapped in.
Second, choose your battles. If he won’t eat the carrots you carefully cut and fashioned into fun shapes, but he had peppers at lunch, let’s not fight. If she exceeded her screen time for the day, but you have one more important 15 minute call to make for work, just give her the phone. When it is not a matter of safety or danger, a little flexibility goes a long way.
Third, without sounding hypocritical, be consistent and predictable. If hitting is unsafe and forbidden, even a swing and a miss should get the same predictable consequence. (We’ll talk about positive and negative reinforcement next time). If two is the cookie limit, a tantrum can’t lead to a third cookie, or surely your child will tantrum every time.
Fourth, contain your emotions. Toddlers are not reasonable humans. They don’t say mean things because they don’t love us and are ungrateful for all the time and effort we have put into raising them. They say mean things because they are overtired, or they are overstimulated, or they are under stimulated, or they are frustrated because they don’t get to make the rules! As hard as it is, try to not raise your voice, get offended or get upset.
Sometimes you will continue shopping, doing your best to get your child out of the store. Sometimes you will leave the cart half-full in the aisle and just go. Just take a deep breath, ignore any perceived judgement, and try to remember that tantrums are a normal part of development, and in the vast majority of children, they pass!
Thank you Dr. Owens!