When people tell you that becoming a parent is a life changing experience, they’re certainly not kidding! So when they go on to tell you about preparing yourself for those infamous and dreaded “terrible twos”, you really would be wise to seriously sit up and take note!
It really is one of life’s great mysteries how those lovely little angelic bundles of joy that have quite happily smiled and gurgled away to themselves and to you for the first two years of their lives can literally turn into a different child, seemingly overnight! So is there anything that you can do to avoid the inevitable temper tantrums that most toddlers seem to develop the ability to throw at will?
Stay calm and in control
One of the key things to remember is to remain calm and in control of yourself at all times. So take a deep breath, centre yourself first, and prepare for the storm ahead.
Temper tantrums are simply a part of your child’s natural development. Your toddler has reached a point in their life where they have an intense desire to learn and do new things. Their mental and motor skills have developed more rapidly than their ability to communicate effectively with you and because they can’t yet verbalise their frustrations to you, they throw a tantrum.
Getting their own way?
Even at the age of two, little ones have learnt the art of manipulation and if you believe that tantrums are being thrown as a means of them getting their own way, then you have to use your body language, words and tone of voice that simply say: “We’re not doing tantrums today”.
This is an early lesson in toddler discipline and walking away, or ignoring their fits and screams clearly says that the tantrums are neither acceptable, nor are they getting the intended result. Your child will soon learn that their outbursts are in vain!
If you feel that their tantrums are born out of frustration, then you need to display empathy and use these outbursts as an opportunity to bond with your child, offering assistance, patience, and understanding. Use soothing and comforting language to appease and reduce their frustration. If they’re getting frustrated at not being able to complete a task, then help them out and make it easier for them to manage what they’re trying to achieve.
It’s also really important to recognise the triggers for a tantrum, because you’ll be able to head off the inevitable angry outburst.
Try and assess when they happen most often. Is it when you are at the shops, on the phone, when they are hungry, bored, cold or when you are just not being attentive enough? If you know when they’re likely to happen, it makes sense to try to avoid those situations so you can fend off and
pre-empt the tantrum.
Stay cool and calm
Remember to remain cool, calm, collected and completely in control at all times. I know this is difficult when the whole of the supermarket queue is watching you, but you need to be the adult, giving security and safe boundaries to your child whilst they are out of control.
Toddlers often feel a bit frightened of what’s happening to them so by remaining calm you are helping them relax and feel safe. Try breathing slowly and rhythmically and watch your child copy your breathing and calm down naturally. Give them a hug and a smile to reassure them that everything is alright.
Young toddlers can be manipulative (even if they don’t fully understand or realise it). They are also incredibly perceptive and if their tantrums get a frustrated and angry response from you it will cause more stress and anxiety within your child.
Your toddler will know what buttons to press to get a response from you. So learning to control your emotions in these difficult times is really important, as it will soothe, placate and ward off the tantrums as opposed to exacerbating them.
Even at this young age, teaching your child what is and isn’t acceptable is an absolutely vital part of their development. Setting boundaries of what’s acceptable for you and your family generally will make it clear to them where they stand, and the less confusion they have in their lives the better.
Their world at this age is a very small place and you are the central hub of it, so try to ensure that you are at hand to lead them along the path, being supportive and full of praise, but be sure to set those boundaries of acceptability as you go.
Prepare yourself because tantrums are coming and recognising the triggers and practicing the most effective means of dealing with them will most certainly be a great help to you as you navigate the choppy waters of taming toddlers (which can feel a bit like trying to tame jelly!) and remember it’s really just about your toddler exploring their boundaries and sense of independence.
It helps to remember that this stage won’t last forever and that a smile is just a curve that puts a lot of things straight!