How To Deal With Toddler Tantrums: A Gentle Parenting Approach
Toddler Tantrums; they just seem to sneak into your lovely baby as they get closer to 2 years of age.
Yes, I’m talking about those loud screeching noises in public and at home, where your toddler seems almost possessed. Your sweet little baby seems to have lost all his senses and is crying out loud, not caring about who is watching. The worst part is that the reason they are doing this is probably very trivial or sometimes it might not be anything at all.
It’s exhausting, makes you angry, leaves you baffled and clueless as to what to do in a situation like this when your child is just not listening to you.
At times it’s not even possible to pick them up because your hands are full, and you have no option but to let them go through those emotions and wait for them to settle, or worse you have to drag them out of the place. This has happened to me a couple of times when I have my baby in my arms and my toddler is going through some difficult emotions in public.
It’s tough momma, and I’m with you on this one, but it’s very important to also understand why is your mostly sweet baby throwing those tantrums.
This age of 1- 3 yrs is probably the most developmentally challenging for their brain. It takes a lot more stimulus than it can handle. Plus, they don’t know how to control their impulses and get overstimulated and tired and hangry (hungry + angry) out of the schedule. It’s tough on them too.
Why does your child get these bursts of tough emotions aka toddler tantrums?
Put in simple words, kids mostly throw tantrums when they are told NO to something they are doing, or they want, or leave a place that is fun.
When they are babies; they’re very dependent on you, but when they get to the age they can walk around, feed themselves, and speak a few words to express their thoughts they think they know it all. They want to do everything by themselves, make all their own decisions, even the ones they’re not ready for, so when we tell them they can’t do something, it makes them angry and frustrated and it only increases because they can’t express this to you. Hence, the emotional meltdowns aka toddler tantrums.
Toddlers are in the fun age, where they know what kind of things they like to do. So they want to keep doing it, they don’t yet understand the concept of coming back to the thing they are liking to do. For them when you ask them to leave something or place, it’s like forever.
Even when you tell them you can come back, or you can do this tomorrow morning, or we’ll buy this later all that falls on deaf ears; because their panic response kicks in as soon as they sense the answer is going to be around NO or CAN’T. Their brain shuts down, they have a gush of emotions, they’re not in a stage to listen anymore. It’s very quick.
As the age progresses sometimes kids add harsh and hurtful words to their meltdowns; like “I want to be with daddy; I don’t like you” or vice versa. They are not being mean on purpose; they’re just feeling even more independent than a few months back with added vocabulary, but are still not there yet developmentally, so they throw in such words. This article about, What to do when kids say mean things will help you put things into the right perspective.
What to do to prevent a toddler tantrum from happening?
So we need to be smart. The way to beat this cycle is; you have to connect yourself with them before you cut their connection with the thing they are enjoying.
Ideally, you should get down to their level; acknowledge that they’re having a good time with this thing, and it’s so cool and fun. And break it to them that this needs to stop because we have to move on the next agenda of the day, be it mealtime, bedtime, or leave the place and go home. Even when they want you to buy something but you can’t buy it; you need to first acknowledge that’s cool and fun, but we can’t get it right now.
This is not like a quick to work or fool-proof method, you are still going to get some push backs, but it’s an honest approach, and your child is going to feel heard.
That connection is going to go a very long way with you. Your child is going to listen to you more often, and eventually, it’ll be easier for them to leave those things behind, they’ll be more understanding and trusting in you. Because they are genuinely being heard.
You are the most important person in your child’s life; they value you the most more than any object or place, and when you make an honest connection with them, they’re so receptive and responding to it.
On the other hand, if you try to make it a power struggle where you tell them they can’t do it, why they can’t do it, how they can do it another time, while they are already having a meltdown, or try to tell this to them in a more commanding manner so they listen to you, or you threaten them to never come back to this place, if the child behaves this way; it is not going to work. Because they are going to feel threatened, and all their senses are going to shut down and they’ll go into an even more panic mode.
Yes, these sound like big words; but your child goes through big feelings when we yell at them at a sensitive time.
What to do when a toddler tantrum is already in progress?
The only thing that is going to work when the meltdown has already happened is patience and trust. If they’re going through tough emotions; you’ll have to wait for them to go through them. They’re currently reacting out of feelings and feelings only need to be heard and just that.
I usually sit with them when they are going through big feelings; watch them, as to what do they want to do, if they would like a hug, or they just want to stay close. Every child is different, both my kids want different things when they are upset.
As the kids get older between 2- 4 yrs of age; the meltdowns seem to get longer; and it really gets overwhelming for everyone in the family, including the parents and younger siblings.
At Home: So if you’re at home when the child is having a meltdown; stay with them for some time. But if it lasts longer than you can manage; tell them that, you’re going to pick them up and help them find a safe spot like a couch or a chair or bed and let them go through their feelings. Tell them to come to you when they feel better and that you’re waiting for it. But, it’s still important to acknowledge their feelings and emotions as they begin and stay with them at least for some time so that the child does not feel neglected and abandoned when they’re upset.
In Public: In public, I do the same, acknowledge his feelings, and tell him that we need to leave the place because this makes a lot of people uncomfortable, and I pick them up and leave, or find a safe spot.
You need to trust your child that they’re not doing anything to manipulate you; they’re not doing anything intentionally to make you mad; no matter how much this looks like it, it’s not true not with any child. The reason why kids behave the way they do is that they’re suffering themselves. What may seem trivial to us, is actually a big deal for kids.
Hope these tips help you conquer the toddler tantrum battle with your 2 yr old next time they have one. Which techniques do you use with your kids? Let me know in the comments below.
Kay writes on Nested Blissfully about Respectful Parenting and Kids nutrition. Their golden rule at Nested Blissfully is; “Don’t do to a child, that you would’t do to an adult”, she asks that we treat children with respect, trust them, and free their childhood; just let them be. When it comes to dealing with parenting issues, she always puts the child’s perspective first to understand the complete picture before finding a solution to the issue. She has a very organic approach to life and likes to keep everything simple and minimal in her homemaking adventure. Follow her at Nested Blissfully to read more about her work.