You have just celebrated your Toddler’s second birthday. There was a grand custom cake with a head of a popular cartoon figure as the highlight, a multitude of guests that your toddler is only marginally familiar with, and plethora of presents that need to be opened, stored for later or returned. There is more cake on the carpet then was eaten by all the little ones running around the house. The party is finally over and the cleanup is almost done. As you look lovingly into your toddlers eyes you cannot believe that they are two years old. The other thing that you will not believe is what will happen next. Welcome to the world of toddler tantrums! The journey that you have only heard but not experienced and nothing can prepare you for.
A tantrum defined by Wikipedia is “A tantrum, temper tantrum, or hissy fit is an emotional outburst, usually associated with children or those in emotional distress, that is typically characterized by stubborness, crying, screaming, defiance, anger, ranting, a resistance to attempts at pacification and, in some cases, hitting. Physical control may be lost; the person may be unable to remain still; and even if the "goal" of the person is met, he or she may not be calmed.” These emotional outbursts are happening as your toddler learns how to regulate and control their emotions and social behavior. The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is the last part of the brain that begins to mature in the first three to four years of development. For a toddler, their magical world is slowly getting replaced with a more logical world.
Regardless of the medical explanations, unfortunately parents still have to deal with attributes of the behavior.
Based on my own experience with toddlers (and I’ve had three!), here are the top 8 things to know -
- Prepare to be embarrassed. Yes, this sweet innocent baby of yours will cause you embarrassment like never before. Like those kids you saw at your friend’s party, it is inevitable, it is going to happen. You will be ‘that’ mother who is left pulling on your child’s arm in the middle of a party while they are rollicking on the floor kicking and screaming.
- They are not possessed by the closet monster. You may wonder what happened to that sweet baby who cooed and ahhed. The first time the tantrum occurs, you may think that your baby is possessed by an evil monster and exorcism will be required; but no that is not the case. This is simply your child acting out their emotions and this shall pass – actually sooner than you think!
- While your toddler is having a tantrum, reasoning with your child, or worse trying to discipline them, won’t help. Remember the tantrum is a result of your toddler trying to regulate their emotions and process the situation. Hence anything you say to them will not be heard and actually make things worse if they feel you are not acknowledging their predicament.
- Do not blame yourself or your partner. Often during a tantrum, my husband and I will blame each other for triggering it. “Junior would not be on the floor crying about a broken puzzle piece if you had not given him the puzzle to begin with!” No, the real fact is that we probably could not have avoided it. If it wasn’t the broken puzzle, it would have been not enough juice in a cup or why can’t we go swimming outside in winter. Tantrums are a natural part of your toddler’s development, and are not related to any particular activity. There is no real trigger and it can start any time. Whether you are going grocery shopping or trying to give them a bath, it does not matter; there is an emotional switch that will flip on a whim when your toddler finds it hard to process the change or put something into words.
- Tantrums can happen anytime of the day. There is no such thing as particular time of the day when a tantrum happens more. In fact toddler tantrums usually happen when you are at the most vulnerable time of your day. Getting late for work and you need to get the toddler to daycare, you need to go to the bathroom, trying to put a seat belt and its blistering cold and all you want to do get the child inside the car ..You get the point. The likelihood of the tantrum happening when ‘it’s a good time’ is zero to nil.
- Take care of yourself. The tantrum itself may not be too bad, lasting anywhere between 5 to 20 minutes usually. However the number of tantrums may take a toll on your emotional, mental and sometimes even physical being. Take 5 minute breaks during a tantrum. It is a marathon and not a sprint. You need to take breaks during a tantrum to recharge your emotional batteries. Keep them short, just enough to let your emotions stabilize. Your child will be kicking and screaming when you leave, and they will be kicking and screaming when you get back. You will not be missing out much and there is not much you will accomplish if you are an emotional wreck. Your patience, energy, and calmness will help your child.
- There is an automatic ‘switch off’ button. Well that’s the good news, but the bad news is that you don’t have access to that switch. The child owns it and will use it when they are ready to use it. The switch comes into play when the toddler has reached the peak of anger, sadness, anxiety, or whatever other emotion that are trying to regulate. Almost always once the peak is reached, they will want a hug and comfort. And 5 seconds after that, as soon as you distract them, they will never realize the tantrum ever happened. What will be left is a tired parent who is emotionally exhausted. Hence the need to focus on number 6 above!
- It doesn’t end when your child turns three. Unfortunately the ability to regulate emotions and social behaviors only begins at two-three years old. Hence, this is a marathon, not a sprint. While the number of tantrums lessens, and the quality of those really ugly ones might decline, a whole new era with new milestones, challenges, behaviors await.
Final thoughts – while toddler years are exciting and your child is experiencing so many new things, unfortunately tantrums are just a part of the journey. If you are starting off, brace yourself and take care of yourself. If you are right in the middle of it, good luck and please share your experience and let me know how it’s working out.
Resources – please feel free to browse through some resources relating to toddler tantrums or kids in general from our product section. Additionally, check out these books that are listed on Amazon that we highly recommend
Saubiya is the chief marketing guru at MomDash but more importantly, she is the mother of three girls who have (almost) completed their “toddler tantrum” years. She is also a marketing expert and a blogger extraordinaire.
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