Toddler Tantrums – The Low Down

A toddler having a tantrum in a phone box

Erm no, my baby is so sweet – I don’t think this one will suffer with the ‘terrible twos’… she says!

‘The terrible twos’ – as they sometimes put it… meaning toddler tantrums, is a beautifully-chaotic phase, that appears to pop-up out-of-nowhere – somewhere around the age of two. It’s when your lovely baby boy or girl (it applies to both), really begins to develop their sense-of-self and mind. Unlike the baby that they previously were – craving mainly attention… they have now realised, that they’re an entirely separate person to you; and they have developed stronger preferences… that they’ll as-sure-as-sugar – try to demonstrate to you. At this point, a little power struggle commences – between toddler and parent… but try not to panic – it’s. perfectly. normal !

I remember initially – whenever my little boy was in the middle of a tantrum – I mean rolling around on the floor and screaming-the-house-down kind of tantrum… I always used to think – why are you doing this to me? What have I done wrong? At the beginning of it all I can recall sometimes getting upset… and honestlyalmost taking it personally. I just couldn’t seem to get my head around, how we were laughing and enjoying each others company, a short second ago – yet now, he was treating me as arch-enemy.

I remember trying everything with him – I would initially stay incredibly calm and wait it out. If this didn’t work, I would try to cuddle him – plastering him in kisses and sweet-talk. If this also didn’t work, I would try to be funny – which would inevitably make him become more hysterical. And then when all-else-failed – and I felt I had exhausted my energy resources… I would then become flustered and frustrated with him – which again… only amplified his hysteria.

For me, the time when the penny dropped… on this unfamiliar tantrum-territory – was a very surreal moment for me indeed. I had been bathing my little tot – and we’d been having lots of fun together in the tub, you know… all the toys and the sing-songs – the whole shebang! Everything again – was going beautifully well…until it was time to get out of the bath that is. My little one went absolutely berserk – I mean… probably the worst hysteria I have ever experienced from him.

This time… in place of trying to negotiate with him – I instead analysed, his every-moveincredibly closely. I got down on the bedroom floor with him – and simply sat on the carpet propped up against the drawers. He was screaming, slapping me, putting his head in his hands – he was literally all over the place.

So, I simply sat. Nothing else. I sat propped up with my legs open – so he could come in for a cuddle if he needed to… and I just sat and waited. He was climbing all over me, then running around the room – then climbing all over me again trying to have a hug, then walking away and screaming again. But:- Instead of trying to talk, lots of sugary-sweet-talk to him… I simply held, a gentle look of empathy on my face – so it meant that my whole demeanour, was down to his level and friendly. I then said – in the calmest, most sincere tone that I possibly could – ‘it’s okay darling – I know it’s hard, when you have to stop doing something that you were enjoying doing – yes, it’s okay to be upset darling’. And then I just waited.

Suddenly – my toddler now had his arms properly around me – he was still standing up on me, but every now and again, I just repeated ‘I know darling, it’s hard isn’t it’. I said this ever so calmly and gently – yet somehow, still firmly enough… for him to know that bath time had definitely finished. Eventually – and yet so suddenly… my toddler had stopped the hysteria; and he was now in more of a – sniffy-snotty state. In this moment, I then asked – ‘would you like to have a cuddle baby?’ – (he answered yes)… ‘okay then darling – let’s have a cuddle’ – you get the gist! And then, to my absolute astonishment – my little tot was now fully embraced, in a cuddle with me.

He was significantly calmer... and rather than yelling hysterically – he was now sniffing back much smaller tears. He’d completely “surrendered” – and before I knew it, he was agreeable to most things that I suggested. i.e. ‘would you like to choose some pyjamas now… yea. ‘Would you like to have some milk now darling?’ – yea pleaseand so on.

What suddenly hit me, was the realisation, that this little toddler he. is. just. that a toddler. I realised in that moment, that toddlers do not actually possess – a great deal of logic, or the means to be rational with us. Although their will and ideas are certainly strong… they don’t always know, exactly what it is – that they actually want; and they don’t always know – how to communicate what they are feeling to us. In my sons case, he was feeling frustrated – for the fact that I was going against what he wanted to do; and since he didn’t have the level of communication, or the ability to rationalise – it therefore built up into an explosive form of frustration for him – and he could only express it… in the form of a highly emotional tantrum.

I came to realise – by watching; and by really trying, to find it in myself to understand… that my toddlers behaviour was not in any way done on purpose… or for the sheer sake of it. I soon realised, that it’s simply all part-and-parcel, of this vital stage in their development – an outlet for the emotions, that they can’t quite understand… and of course – just being a normal two-year-old.

When my son was attending nursery, I was talking to one of the lovely nursery-nurses – about his behaviour. At that point, I was at the stage, where I was still getting used to the tantrums. I’d been trying various gentle methods, to help my son work through his anger, but the one thing I hadn’t thoroughly tested… was the ‘naughty-step‘. So, I asked the nursery nurse, what she thought about the naughty-step technique; and her response was, that she felt it would be fine – but, she explained that it was essential – that I stayed near my son – during ‘naughty-step time’.

So, that very night – when my little one threw a big hissy fit – I set out a comfy little leather foot stool… and had him sit there for two minutes. I explained to him why we were doing this – and I told him, that if we are naughty and don’t listen to mummythen we will be taking time-out… on the naught chair. Of course, my son began crying… and crying some more, but… to my absolute astonishment – he stayed on the chair! While he didn’t like the experience – he bizarrely seemed to understand, that he was there as a consequence, of his behaviour. I sat on a chair very near to him – and gently talked him through the process. As we approached the last few seconds, I went over to him (at his level) and asked if he was going to be a good boy?. He said yes – and so, I asked him if he would like a cuddle… and he again said yes. So, we had a cuddle – and then after that, he was happy and also behaved… result!

Something I always wonder as a parent, is what it would it be like – to be a fly on the walljust to observe myself for a moment ? This is a thought, that I now live by – when it comes to dealing with my son; and I would like to share it with you – because it’s a really thought-provoking concept. During any given tantrum, I always try to think to myself, okay – so how would the fly-on-the-wall, be perceiving this? What would the fly have to say, about what the toddler is doing – versus how the parent (me)… is reacting to the toddler? The toddler being two-and-a-half – and me being thirty…? ?

With this in mind… I now always try to look at situations… from the outside in. Meaning, that instead of firstly paying attention to my own emotions – and acting based on what I am seeing with my own eyes… and to what I am feeling inside – Instead – I first look at how I’m behaving… in the ‘eye of the fly’. Because, the eye of the fly – can see everythingnot just your child like you can… they can see you too. The fly on the wall – is your perspective. And perspective – is a really useful and beautiful thing.

Honestly, it’s really not easy being a parent; and I can thoroughly identify and empathise – with every single one of you, who are struggling with this challenging phase. None-of-us are perfect – and we’re all only human, so it’s tough… it really isn’t easy. My sincere hope is, that if you do take anything away from this post… I hope it can be a little strength; and also the courage to know – that you’ve got this. Because it does. get. easier.

With warm wishes as always,

Fly on the wall

AKAOlivia xo