There is nothing quite like dealing with a toddler tantrum. Even the most challenging boardroom meeting or tightest deadline cannot compare to the frustration and stress associated with a screaming toddler who refuses to accept any form of consolation.
The good news is that this stage won’t last forever, and you are strong enough to deal with it. You just need to take a step back, give yourself a break and start afresh.
The first thing to do is acknowledge your feelings. Too many parents feel the pressure to be perfect and appear as if they always have everything together. Tell yourself that it’s ok to feel down, drained and hopeless when dealing with yet another toddler meltdown. It’s also ok to feel angry and resentful.
We might be parents but we are still human beings and tantrums are designed to test even the most patient among us. If your toddler is having a meltdown whenever he/she doesn’t get his way or for no reason at all, this doesn’t mean you are incompetent.
It is simply a natural part of their emotional development as your child finds their place in the world (and one of the less appealing challenges of the parenting role). But turning the blame on yourself is not going to do anyone any good and will only propel your frustration.
While many of us will be tempted to turn to our partners in times of stress, it can be much more helpful to go outside of the family when dealing with such troubles. Removing yourself from the home and seeking solace in mum/dad friends, a support group or a therapist gives you an outlet free from judgement.
It also means that the problem won’t become something bigger and an issue between you and your spouse. Dealing with the terrible twos can take its toll on even the strongest relationship. While it is, of course, a good idea for you and your partner to support one another, it can actually take a lot of the pressure off by keeping things separate.
The Persian proverb “this too shall pass” was talking more about the ephemeral human condition than toddler tantrums but the rule certainly applies in this case. Parenting is an everlasting rollercoaster and this season’s frustrations will be next season’s memories. When you recognise that this stage is not going to last forever, sometimes this can be enough to get you through. Parenting is about the long game – make sure that you’re playing.
As a parent, you are the authority figure but toddlers are clever little beings who will often try to drag you into negotiation or conversation to distract you from the main task at hand (e.g. telling him/her to leave the playground as it’s time to go home). Stand your ground and make sure that your child knows that when you say no, it means no. This is not a battle that your toddler will win. This doesn’t make you an unloving parent, instead it means you are doing your job right and preparing your toddler for a lifetime where he or she cannot always get his own way.
Whatever your parenting methods, there is one golden rule – don’t ever reward bad behaviour. When he or she is having a tantrum on the supermarket floor and you just want the ground to swallow you up, it can be tempting to offer chocolate or toys as a reward “if you just behave yourself.” Don’t give into temptation as this will make things far harder in the long run when your toddler associates bad behaviour with lovely treats. Along similar lines, you must always keep a cool head when your toddler is acting out. If he sees that you are angry, it will likely only upset him more.
You know your child best and if his or her tantrums seem to be taking place too frequently or have become very extreme, it may be best to seek expert help. Have a chat with your GP to see who they can recommend. Just remember, every parent has been there and support is always at hand.
Tantrums often take place when your toddler is overly stressed. Click here to read our blog post on how to help your toddler cope during periods of change for further advice and support.