Everyone has heard of the “terrible twos” and how it’s a normal phase for toddlers. Many of us prior to having children probably giggled to ourselves and thought that this was just a myth and things would be different when they had kids.
Well, I was one of those people and now as a mom of a two year old, I can honestly say that the terrible twos exist no matter the toddler or parent.
The terrible twos for us started even before my daughter turned two where she would outburst when she didn’t get her way. Even the simple, “no”, would set her off. Of course these tantrums would happen in the worse places such as the grocery store or my personal favorite, the middle of the street in downtown Toronto. Yup that actually happened.
Now for the longest time, I thought to myself that this was a reflection of my parenting and I must be a really bad parent. Well, if I didn’t think it, the eyes and stares surely made me feel that way.
It wasn’t until a dear friend of mine made me realize that the tantrums expressed by my daughter were not a reflection of my parenting skills but an expression of her feelings. This got me thinking about how it would be like to be a toddler. I started to picture a little me (not hard since I am not a very tall person) exploring the world around me. Everything is new and exciting. I am loving the fact that I am gaining independence and can do things on my own. Then I am told, “No” or “You Can’t Do That!” With limited language skills and overwhelmed by the array of emotions, the meltdown begins. So I do get it! However, it doesn’t mean that I like it. Therefore, I had to start thinking of ways to minimize the frequency of tantrums or try to diffuse them quickly.
Here are my top techniques that have helped me (Please note that every child, situation and parent is different. Therefore my techniques may not work for you).
But before I go into my techniques I do have some words of advice to the onlookers. Please try not to look and stare. If you have had children before you can relate to the stress and embarrassment the parent is feeling. Try to carry on with whatever you are doing and let it be. The extra eyes only adds fuel to the situation as the toddler knows you are watching and it does not help them stop their behaviour.
Remove Toddler From The Situation
There have been many times where the tantrums get really loud and could almost seem like an uncontrollable situation. Sometimes just a change of scenery can help diffuse the meltdown. This works for my daughter as she sees she is no longer in the same place and she calms down a bit which allows me to talk to her about what has happened and help her understand her feelings.
The Art of Distraction
The beauty of toddlers is how quickly they can get distracted and suddenly forget what they were having a meltdown for. I have to admit that I use this technique frequently and works really well. For example, if my daughter wants something at the cash register (since the retail world strategically places eye catching items to buy at the cash out), I distract her with something else that I already have on hand. I have even asked her to help me pay and she gets really excited to help me that she forgets she was asking for something. Then I just keep talking to her about things that interest her all the way out to the car.
Tantrums can sometimes be really hard for us to communicate with our toddlers, especially when they appear to be inconsolable. However, when they do calm down and you are able to talk to them. I suggest getting down to their level. I find that when I am speaking directly to my daughter, she tends to be a better listener. Talk to them about what happened and help them find a solution to their tantrum. Sometimes tantrums result from them being frustrated. For example, my daughter has a tantrum when a toy isn’t standing the way she wants it to. So I help her find solutions on how to get the toy to do what she wants without getting angry.
It is also important to continually talk to your toddler to help them understand. When we go out to the store, I let my daughter know what we are going to do and I tell her that today there will be no toys. So now when we go to the store, she tells me, “No Toys Momma.” This has helped avoid tantrums as she knows the expectations of our outing.
Let Them Be
I use this tactic rarely and only when I have had some rest and my patience meter is completely full. But sometimes letting them be and not pay attention to their tantrum can work. When I have used this tactic, my daughter stops and wonders why I am not paying attention to her. If I slowly pretend to walk away, she usually gets right up and hugs me to say, “Sorry Momma.” That is my favorite part but this occasionally happens and I call those “good days.”
Those four tactics are my go to when the happy train comes crashing down and sometimes I use a combination of them to help diffuse or even avoid a tantrum. Every tantrum, situation and day can be different. Overall, our end goal is to resolve the tantrum in the best way possible. Of course, it can be very hard and draining for parents to deal with these uncomfortable situations and there are plenty of times that I could do a lot better but I am always learning each and every day. The days that are a little more difficult, I try to give myself some “me time” and if that means I take two minutes in my room to just breath then that is what I do. Children feed off of our energy so if she feels my frustration, the tantrum will take much longer to diffuse.
I try to remember that her tantrums are not a cruel way to punish or test my patience but a development growth opportunity for her and I. My daughter is learning to express herself with her new found daily skills and it is my job to help guide her to express them the best way she can.
The terrible twos do exist and they WILL happen. That is the truth! It is how we cope with them that will make it easier for us all. None of us are perfect and as long as we try our very best, that is all that we can do.
Until next time…Happy Parenting!
– Momma Braga
The Baby Spot 2017 Blogger of the Year