I know myself and my daughter have been rather spoiled these past 3 years, with all of our attention on each other! No siblings to distract or fight with or for me to try to manage. With number 2 on the way I was thinking about how I have navigated being a parent to Coco and what methods have worked well with her. One of these is dealing with tantrums.
Luckily, Coco doesn’t have many huge tantrums anymore, and thankfully she’s not had many huge ones in public! The fear of judgement and mean comments is real! I think the reason she doesn’t have many is because I’ve found what she needs in those moments. She’s exceptionally strong willed so I think she has the potential to throw many more tantrums then she did/does!
Sadly, at least in this country, I don’t think we are very accepting of children. We don’t seem to recognise they have more needs then adults.They are noisier and don’t always slot perfectly into an adult situation. Now, I’m not saying that children should be left to run wild in public, but they are likely to be louder and occasionally a tantrum will happen. Emotionally, they are overwhelmed, (often by something that to us, seems infuriatingly small) and need to get rid of that emotion to be able to function again. I’m sure most of us know what it feels like when we need a good cry and need to release all of that built up energy! Toddlers especially don’t have the luxury of holding onto their tears till a more suitable time. Even well behaved children are still children.
My theory is that tantrums are emotions expressed in the only way a child knows. I want to teach her that her emotions are ok. It’s ok to feel. I don’t want to teach her to lock them up. Maybe this approach comes from my issues with mental health – hiding my emotions has done me no favours. I want her to know I’m there for her when she feels overwhelmed and upset.
Coco mainly has tantrums at home. She started with the lay on the floor scream and cry tantrums. When she was at home I found the best thing was to lay on the ground next to her. I was there supporting her through her emotions but letting her get them out. After she was done we’d have a big cuddle and talk about it. When a bit older, she then progressed to lashing out at me, she’d scream, cry and hit me. I’d get down on her level hold her hands and firmly say ‘no, we don’t hit people’. This would usually prompt the yelling/crying to go up a gear! If she was able to accept it, I’d cuddle her or pick her up and hold her whilst she finished. This had the added bonus of containing those tiny fists of rage from lashing out again! If not it was a case of waiting it out till she could cuddle and then talk.
Now she’s just turned 3 her tantrum style and reasons have changed. She usually wants more control over a situation. I can usually give her a cuddle straight away until she’s calmed, then give her options on what we are doing. Last night the winning compromise was to stay naked whilst she brushed her teeth and read a story, then get in her pjs right before sleeping! All I did was give her options on the order and her choosing the order in which we would do things, worked a treat! Yay!
As for these emotional outbursts in public, I find that for Coco prevention is best! Her speech is still not great so understanding her can be hard, and can lead to an emotional outburst because she’s frustrated! If I can stay as connected to her as possible we do our best. I do things that often get disapproving frowns and looks from strangers: we are often ‘too’ noisy; I encourage her singing around the grocery store; I’m silly with her on a regular basis when out and about; we play stupid games etc. Obviously I do have to get things done so it’s not a constant game, but I’m checking in as often as I can to be a goof with her, or notice amazing things – a sticker, a bug, someone with hair like grandma, mud etc etc! We’ll hold hands and run down the street and jump over things. If I can see her getting overwhelmed laughter is excellent for getting rid of some of that tension within her. If she does have a tantrum in public, we deal with it much the same as we do at home, just no laying on the floor for me! It’s usually cuddles, being held and reassurance and talking about it afterwards. And a good measure of distraction! If she needs a good cry I’m going to let her have it. I hate people tutting and staring, and the fact she is so tall and looks at least a year older doesn’t help! I go bright red and a bit sweaty and might stutter out excuses, but I want her to be able to cry/scream it out. If we can, we will leave the shop or walk to a quieter corner, but at the end of the day its about her not them. I am safely allowing her to do what she needs, I’m doing my job, even if they disapprove. If they stuck around they’d see my normal happy girl return a few minutes later (feels like eternity)!
I don’t always handle these emotionally charged moments with such clarity, I have days where I must need to have a tantrum myself and I lose my shit! There have been days where even the most calm and level response from me would have little long term effect, and on those never ending monster tantrum days I try not to venture out of the house. If I have to spend the day laying on the floor, it’s going to be my floor! But the calm, loving response is what works best for my girl, and I try my best to show that.
She is generally a very happy little girl, and I love that when she is upset, tired and overwhelmed she seeks me out to work through it with her. Yes it’s exhausting that it has to be me and it can’t be Daddy, but I know she’s comfortable to express and ‘fix’ the hard emotions with me.
I’m hoping when baby number 2 reaches the tantrum phase I have the time and energy to respond with the same support. Here’s to hoping that the same approach works!
How do you prevent and react to calm the dreaded tantrums?