One of the things that terrify most parents is their toddler throwing a tantrum. For me, tantrums are the moment when I want to dig a hole in the road, bury myself and breathe through a straw until this emotional explosion is over. As worrying as these conditions might seem, they are a perfectly normal part of our children’s development. Meltdowns uncover before us the whole emotional universe of our wee ones and their inability to express their feelings because they still do not know how.
When my wee one was about two years old, she began throwing tantrums during which she was stretching like a yoga pro on the street every time she was feeling tired. I was trying to forsee these meltdowns by making sure that she had slept and eaten well prior going out, but still… children are a unpredictable natural phenomena with the power of a devastating tsunami shall they get exhausted. Especially in this emotionally fragile age. At first, I was feeling ashamed and embarrassed by these uncontrollable tantrums, which lasted for a few short minutes that felt like eternity. Sometimes, I was even getting this feeling of a failed parent on whose back were stuck like greesy spots the eyes of the strangers around. Then, I started reading about this emotional phenomenon. I began noticing the behavior of my wee one’s buddies and with relief, I found out that each of them was experiencing such meltdowns every now and then, some of which even more extreme than my daughter’s.
For the past year these meltdowns diminished to non occuring. I optimistically linked this to the richer communication with my wee one who now comes directly to me and speaks about her feelings and fears openly. I owe lots to her teachers in preschool for this change, who are making extraordinary efforts to help our mini versions analyze, talk about and experience their feelings.
For months my wee one was enjoying both pre-school and extra classes in gymnastics, which apparently exhausted her, but still in the evenings she was to be in good spirits ready to eat the whole world and watch at least two episodes of Peppa Pig. As of today, one of her best friends joined her in the gymnastics classes. Apparently, they had enjoyed a big time because they left gymnastics happy, shared a pretty abundant for their small tummies lunch and packed in puffs headed to the pre-school without any signals of an upcoming apocalypse.
In the evening upon picking up my daughter from nursery, for the first time in a year, instead of a hug and joyful mood, I was welcomed by a massive meltdown that I experienced as in slow-motion. The wee one, instead of being happy to see me, stretched her body on the ground with her legs kicking around so nervously and energeticly that I was convinced she would dig an underground tunnel to the parking lot. All of this was accompanied by a long vocal roar which an opera singer would certainly envy for the octaves. There were no words, cuddle or comforting that could put her to peace. I was on my knees in a miserable attempt to embrace her and explain that these emotions are normal, that I understand how exhausted she must be feeling after the day full of activities and that she is a real lucky kid to be able enjoy so much. None of this helped, so I remembered that in such occasions, the things that actually work are reconciliation, peace and distraction. The teacher had succeeded meanwhile to outshout my wee one and tell me she was upset because it was tidy up time and she wanted to paint more instead. With that in mind, I immediately switched my monologue towards the jigsaws that had just arrived from amazon. An important, particularly calming, explanation was that these are not just jigsaws, but Paw Patrol and Peppa Pig jigsaws…if you know what I mean 😉 It’s like telling a meloman that they are going to Madonna and Robbie Williams concerts all at once.
Apparently, this was the key to bringing peace back on Earth. Soon, the tears disappeared and my wee one fell asleep in the buggy. Though I have gone through this before, I was still experiencing such a horror, uncertainty, and doom that I felt like a sacrificial lamb.
TIPS FOR HANDLING TANTRUMS SUCCESSFULLY
Drawn from my personal experience, I can share with you few guidelines that you can make use of whenever your kids throws a tantrum.
- Accept the fact that tantrums at this age (1.5-4 years) are a normal part of the child’s development and they show nothing less and nothing more than frustration and anxiety.
- Their causes are often fatigue, hunger, anxiety or a sense of ignorance (for example, you are paying attention to another child at the moment).
- In order to deal with these meltdowns, you need to understand what causes them, armour youself with patience and demonstrate your sincere support and understanding.
- Do not panic, rather skillfully focus your wee one’s attention on something different that they love and which you can easily provide in the immediate future.
- Regardless of how impossible it could seem at this very moment, do not end the tantrum by agreeing to give your child what they want, especially if this is something wrong, or bribe them with something sweet or a promise for the expensive toy they liked so much in the store.
- Completly ignore the millions of judging eyes that you inevitably feel on your back. If you get anxious, the child will feel it and will erupt like a vulcano. Believe me – they can always surprise you.
- Help the child cope with future emotional outbursts by talking more about their emotional world and the feelings they experience. The more conscious children become, the more likely they are to verbalise their emotions (usually after 4 years of age).
- When your child wants something, learn to say yes when possible. Choose your battles carefully.
- If your child needs space during their tantrum to pour out their feelings, provide them the space. Exit the room or move away for a moment, if you are in a public place.
Tantrums are a real emotinal test for both children and parents. You can rarely find all-time working strategies to deal with them, and that is exactly what gives rise to anxiety and confusion. What I can personally share is that support, patience, cuddles and gentle words have the potential to extinguish the fire and bring back peace. Let the strength and tranquility be with you!