I have so many fond memories of my children’s toddler years, a time that I would consider one of the best times – except for the tantrums! It was one of the things I found to be very challenging. A tantrum could strike anytime, anywhere without any warning. Five minutes would feel like an hour, nothing would seem to work at that specific time, and there is no one-size-fits all solution for it!
Now that my kids are older and we’ve surpassed the toddler tantrums stage, I look back realizing that I learned much about the parent I wanted to be from the tantrum stages.
In my experience, tantrums are more likely to happen when there is a change in our routine and environment. Missing a nap would almost certainly cause a meltdown some time during the day! I learned the hard way that if I try to be spontaneous and do too many things with my child without planning for rest, it will end with both of us being tired and frustrated, hence a tantrum.
What worked for me was to carefully plan out our schedule each time we’d go out. At first, I would limit our stops to one or two places only. We’d go out right after nap time and be back in time for next. If we were eating out, we’d pick a restaurant that is kid-friendly, more spacious, and quieter. I would also try my best to explain our schedule for the day, where we would go, and who we would meet. If we were going to see our doctor for example, I would try to read a book about a visit to the doctor to help my child prepare for it.
During our day out, I would be conscious to take our time and allot time for any unplanned delays. If we would have to stay a bit longer to finish a meal, tie a shoelace or take a bathroom break, I always remind myself that I should not stress out because of the delay, but instead enjoy the moment I am with my kids.
Yet however perfectly I plan for our day, it would still be impossible to avoid tantrums!
I learned that during a tantrum, compassion and empathy is key. At first, I would almost immediately panic and overreact, but later on figured out that what my child needs at the time of a tantrum is my empathy and presence. My child is having a hard time and does not intend to give me a hard time. When I looked at it that way, I had more patience and compassion in dealing with my toddler’s tantrums.
Sometimes this is easier said than done, especially when people are starting to stare during a tantrum and no trick seems to work. I vividly recall being at a children’s party and my kid going into a big meltdown because he did not want to join the group photo! I felt very conscious and judged, because all the other kids were behaving okay, but I also decided then that I would not let other people’s opinions change the way I want to treat and respect my child. Know the values you want to instill in your family, and do not be afraid to be judged for doing what is best for you.
As moms, we might feel the need to be the one to deal with our kids’ tantrums. I’ve felt guilty if I am unable to control my child’s tantrum. As in raising kids, we need to remember that it is okay to ask for help. We have a community who can help us! Our family members can give us a break and take turns in trying to calm down a crying toddler. Our kids’ teachers can give us specific tips on how to help us understand their tantrum triggers. Our pediatricians can also give us more advice on our child’s behavior and what we need to look out for.
Finally, give yourself grace. Being a parent is hard, being a kid is hard. We are all learning in this journey, and we never seem to know enough. I know I could have probably done better in handling toddler tantrums, but I’ve decided to use what I learned from those years to try to become a better person and a better mom. These things that I have learned will definitely be helpful from the toddler years and beyond.