Catatonic with sleep deprivation, I stared at my then two-year-old as he lay sprawled in the middle of the food court at our local shopping centre, throwing the tantrum of all tantrums. At my wit’s end, I simply walked away.
It was early morning, so the shopping centre was quiet. I sat myself down a few tables away and waited for the explosion of toddler anger and frustration to pass.
What had caused all the drama? My little bundle of joy was writhing on the floor over the fact that I was attempting to buy him a new pair of sneakers. The problem was that he still wanted his old ones (“Just make bigger, Mummy!”).
Nothing joins parents in unity more than the tantrum; there’s the same fear in their eyes as they stare at their little one spinning uncontrollably in a frenzy. Not universal, however, is our expectations of these tantrums. Here are eight things every parent needs to know to tackle the toddler tantrum.
1. The ‘terrible twos’ are just the beginning
Tantrums do not start on your child’s second birthday and certainly do not end on their third birthday. At five, my youngest son is only just starting to show signs of this phase finally being over.
2. It's okay to walk away
Walking away shouldn’t be mistaken for abandoning your child. Just give yourself and the tantrum a bit of space and time to ease.
3. The tantrum phase will pass, but don't hold your breath
Lowering your expectations will help you avoid the disappointment some parents face as they expect tantrums to magically disappear by a certain age.
4. You are not alone
It seems that every child has a screaming banshee inside them just waiting for the right moment to unleash. This isn’t a reflection on your parenting or lack of parenting; it’s simply a rite of passage every child – and therefore every parent – must pass through.
5. Logic doesn’t work
Logic lives on one planet and tantrums live on another planet. They are universes apart. As tantrums are often caused by your child boiling over with frustration, attempting to use reason and logic to calm down your screaming little one is like trying to put a fire out with glitter. It's not going to work, so just save yourself the heartache and mess.
6. Children are terrific mimics
Kids are sponges who soak everything up, and their parents are their greatest teachers. If they see us losing our calm, when the situation arises they, too, will lose their calm.
7. Try to avoid the triggers
Cue the chorus of parents chiming in saying “that’s easier said than done”. I agree. But for my boys, guaranteed triggers were being tired or being hungry. If I could minimise them being pushed to the limit if they were hungry or tired, then I found that often the tantrum was avoided altogether.
8. Choose your battles wisely
Some tantrums are worth tackling, but others aren’t. Digging in your heels and going in to combat each and every time the tantrum returns is only going to wear you out. (Although I’m sure there are more than a few parents who wish they could throw a tantrum themselves, out of complete frustration!)
As for my little man and his sneakers tantrum, well we went home that day without any sneakers. He fell fast asleep in the car on the way home. The next day, happy as can be, we bought some new brightly coloured sneakers that fit perfectly, the tantrums of the day before well and truly forgotten. Funny how that happens …