We all know about them. Whether it is through experience or stories told by others, we have all heard about the ever famous terrible twos super stuffed with tantrums, hitting, screaming, and everything else you can expect from someone having a meltdown over something as little as the word no. Well as you may know, I have a daughter who is 2 and a half years old (prime tantrum age I might add) and a son who is 1 and a half (and likes to imitate his sister on occasion). Here is how my trip to the grocery store went from smooth sailing to tantrum central within the time it took to walk from returning a cart to walking back to the car.
So there I was, in the middle of the Harris Teeter parking lot standing by an open car door with one child on my hip and another on the floor crying because she didn’t want to leave behind a blackberry that had fallen on the floor (it was her brother’s). After a few minutes of trying to ask her to stand up and get into the car I decided to put my son down and put my daughter in her chair on my own. As I am attempting to buckle her in she does her little push forward technique so that it is impossible for me to clip her in at the waist all the while I am keeping my eye out to be sure the little guy was still standing next to me. I finally managed to get her buckled in however her seat belt was completely loose at this point however she was still doing her little exorcist move so I opted to leave her be while I go buckle in her brother.
By the time I finished I walked back to her side and she is still freaking out so I unbuckle her and pick her up. It was in this moment that I chose to not be mad at her but to try and empathize with her. I gave her a hug and we just stood there hugging for a good while as I told her I understood she didn’t want to leave but that we had to give home and eat lunch. I then told her I was going to put her in her seat and asked for one big squeeze before doing so. I placed her in her seat and what ya know, no fussing just smiles….
The reason I share this story is because I get it, I get how incredibly HARD it is to deal with a tantrum throwing toddler especially in public. And while I can’t say that my reaction is always as calm (I’m usually running on no sleep so tantrum toddler + sleepless mommy = no win situation) but I have noticed that the more I just sit and talk it out with my daughter and open up for a hug to comfort her when she is having a meltdown the better we both feel after. I have learned that telling her how she is feeling and explaining the situation helps. I have found that sometimes it is also best to just let her have a few minutes to have her little tantrum before embracing her in a hug and talking it out. At home I will even take her to her room and let her know that she can cry and have her fit there and when she feels better she can come out with everyone else, which is usually withing a couple of minutes.
Now I am not saying my methods are proven to be the best but I have noticed how much it works for us and how much better I feel after. What can I possibly mean by that? Well, getting mad at your child for expressing their feelings they don’t understand in the only way they know how just seems to be under productive and even can send a wrong message, in my opinion. I want my children to grow up knowing that it is okay to express themselves but they just need to be conscious of where they are and if they are hurting others. Yelling and spanking not only shows them that expressing negative emotions is “wrong” but it also shows them that yelling and hitting is okay when someone does something wrong instead of being empathetic (plus I always feel like crap if I end up to the point of yelling or spanking).
So my advice for that inevitable next toddler tantrum? Rather than getting mad and reacting out of anger/embarassment/or other negative emotions try thinking about what your toddler must be feeling. Think about what made them angry in the first place. And once you can understand talk to them, explain what they are feeling and how they should express themselves. Offer them a hug and try not to end it too abruptly. Let them know that you’re on their side to help guide them rather than just discipline them for something we are all guilty of. You’d be surprised on how much a hug will help a toddler in a tantrum.