My babies are two years and 10 months now. And, in the past couple of weeks, I have noticed an increase in their unreasonableness. Not that toddlers should be reasonable. Not at all.
But, lately, what I understood from their behavior is this: Their souls are growing much faster than their brains.
Here is how dialogue is sometimes carried out over breakfast:
Mother: “Hey, would you like to have some yogurt?”
Child: “I want yogurttttttttt!!!!” Followed by at least 10 minutes crying.
Mother: “OK. Here it is.”
Child: “NOOOOOO!!!” Another 10 minutes of crying.
I’m still confused whether they want or don’t want the yogurt.
This has been happening several times in a day and the focus of frustration changes from food choices, to clothing options, available toys, sibling behavior, the temperature of drinks or bath water, choices of bedtime stories or the number of cuddles they receive.
And because they are two, they take turns in their rage. Sometimes, they do it together. Either way, these are loud days around the house.
I think that definitions are important, especially when dealing with such a massive issue… So what is a tantrum? As explained for adults, a tantrum is an unreasonable and apparently irrational reaction. It is blowing things out of proportion.
It is emotion driving the car, while reason, common sense and thinking are all locked up in the trunk.
There is only one way we can stop it: allow it to finish.
But before we go into any of that, know this:
1. This tantrum that your child is experiencing has nothing to do with you.
2. This tantrum is not an indicator that you are failing at parenting.
3. This tantrum is something that nature gave to kids so they can cruise their emotions. They naturally know how to do it: create a story that allows unloading emotions. There is no more to it than this.
4. This tantrum is a volcano. It is stronger than the mountain. And the lava must come out. The more you try to delay or stop it, the stronger it will be when it comes out.
You see, you have a good child. He or she is not doing this to hurt your feelings. It is just that they have big emotions inside their little chests and need to create a story so they can let these big feelings out.
So they will pick up a fight, disagree or be unreasonable so they can have a good enough reason to unload.
And if you pay attention to it, once they’re done with it, they can think better, behave better and overall be a little bit more pleasant to be around.
And listen, you are a good mom! Really! You worry about your child, and you want to see them happy.
This is just not one of those instances when you can make them happy.
Here is what you shouldn’t do to stop a tantrum:
1. Don’t try to give them some ‘thing’ to soothe
Be it food, TV, screen time or fulfilling unreasonable demands. This will only numb their emotions and not solve the issue.
It’s okay—even good!— to soothe your child with your patience, presence and compassion. “I know honey, breakfast can be hard.” But it’s counter-productive to try to give in to irrational demands—at least all the time.
They don’t cry because of the yogurt. They cry because they are little children learning to deal with their emotions.
2. Don’t try to control its magnitude or length
If you’re in a public space and your child’s tantrum is disturbing other people, or worse, if you feel judged, leave. Pick them up, sometimes over your shoulder and go for a drive or go back home. Offer them the courtesy to finish what they started.
3. Don’t draw your worth from this event
You are a good mom who allows her child to feel all of her feelings, big and small. Their tears don’t make you a bad mom. Their rage doesn’t speak to your purpose in their life. Stand strong in your integrity, knowing that you are doing the right thing. You are not neglecting their needs by allowing them to cry.
You know exactly how this is going. We also have days of tenderheartedness, when we carry a massive stone over our souls, or when we lose our patience quickly. It can be when we lash out at our partner or colleague. None of this will disappear until you unload it. That is usually with a big cry. It is cleansing and resetting for our entire system.
Don’t rob your child of the opportunity to clean their soul pipes and clear and reboot it. Even when it needs to happen 20 times today. Tomorrow will be better. Or in retrospect, at least yesterday was better. It will all pass.
You’re a good mom!
Repeat this mantra to yourself. See your best friend and cry. Get a pedicure. Or a massage. Attend to yourself, so you have the resources to be open to see your child without any judgment or expectations.
You’ve got this!