Welcome to the Terrible Twos
Watching your child hit, scream, and throw themselves on the floor can be frustrating, not only for you but also for your child. However, if you take a step back and do your due diligence, you will find that the terrible twos is a typical stage in your child’s development. It is up to us as parents to understand the causes and take the time to figure out the appropriate measures to help.
Can you imagine not being able to communicate your needs or how you are feeling? Our toddlers are a part of a 24/7 losing game of charades. Nothing pulls on my heartstrings more than not knowing what my child needs or wants. Maybe your child is thirsty but wants the blue cup instead of the pink, perhaps your child is hungry, but you gave them the wrong snack. Whatever the case may be, this is a frustrating time for all involved parties.
When my daughter began throwing tantrums, at about 18 months old, I knew I needed to figure out what was causing this. I started researching and came across an article by Lovevery. This article explains that our child’s prefrontal cortex, which helps regulate emotions and decision-making, is not fully developed. Our children are too young to understand the concept, “don’t cry over spilled milk,” or, in my case, spilled goldfish or fruit snacks. That simple fact alone changed the way I approached my daughter’s tantrums.
Here are my tips for handling the dreaded terrible twos:
1. Find a Distraction
Sometimes tantrums come during the most irrational times. Your child could be happy as a clam on the swing set and turn into Dennis the Menus the next. When this happens, I always try to find a quick distraction. The silliest item can be a complete game-changer. No toys in site? Bring your child to a picture hanging on the wall or grab whatever child-friendly object you can find. Change your tone to make whatever you are looking at to be the coolest thing you’ve ever seen.
2. Change of Scenery
Recently, during an outside family dinner, my child had the ultimate tantrum. She started screaming and throwing herself on the ground out of nowhere. Maybe she saw the food coming and knew she had to go in her highchair, or perhaps she was just over being outside. Whatever the case was, by quickly picking her up and bringing her inside, she instantly calmed down. Although I had to eat my dinner sitting Indian style on the floor while watching Cocomelon, this quick reaction to change scenery quickly stopped her little breakdown.
3. Get on Their Level
When my daughter is in the middle of a never-ending tantrum, I always get on my knees, so I am eye level with her. I calmly tell her to look me in the eyes and ask her to tell or show me what she wants. My demeanor is always empathetic, and I let her know that I understand she is upset, but I am here to help. It was a struggle to get her to look at me, but once she started to make eye contact, her mood quickly shifted. Getting my daughter to look me in the eyes, took a couple weeks to grasp, but now this little trick works like a charm.
4. Keep Calm
Your reaction to your toddler’s tantrum can be the difference between causing an even bigger breakdown or quickly shutting it down. If your frustration level matches your toddlers, you are, in a sense condoning their reaction. It is so crucial that you stay calm and acknowledge the emotion they are feeling.
5. Give Them Some Extra Love
Sometimes the easiest way to calm your toddler is to hug it out. Maybe you spent the day doing laundry, meal prepping, or running hours’ worth of errands, which may make your child feel a little left behind. I have found that during my busiest days, my daughters’ tantrums are at an all-time high. By merely stopping whatever I am in the middle of to give her some extra TLC, she tends to calm her down, while also allowing yourself to go back to those infamous infant cuddle days.
How I Turned Toddler Tantrums into a Learning Opportunity
1. Figure Out Their “Tantrum” Triggers
Tantrums can come on as quickly as they go, but you may be able to lessen their frequency by figuring out what causes them to meltdown. When Josi first started throwing tantrums, I didn’t have a sense of what was causing her frustration. However, throughout time, I was able to anticipate her mood swings and figure out what her “triggers” were. My daughter would hit and scream every time I told her it was time to go “inside.” I quickly learned the word “inside” really upset her. Instead, I would say, “it’s time for lunch” or “it’s time to read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.” (her favorite book). By being mindful of the words I used and monitoring what sparked her tantrums, we were able to move on to the next activity without blocking her Tyson jabs.
2. Teach Your Toddler About the Emotion They are Feeling
In my opinion, a massive part of temper tantrums is your toddler not understanding the emotion they are feeling. Our children are too little to understand not to throw themselves on the floor when they can’t get their shoes on. I have found that explaining to your child how they feel, helps them learn the appropriate times to show that given emotion.
I hope my tips and tricks help you get through this dreaded phase, phase being the keyword. As you already know, we, as parents, have conquered numerous obstacles thus far. Feel free to leave your comments below. Knowledge is power, and I am so grateful to have fellow parents giving me advice along the way.