I’ve been thinking a lot about toddler tantrums, aka The Terrible Twos of late. Not least because I was recently informed by a member of my family that Pixie has entered this difficult phase early (thanks Mum).

I’m not certain I agree, but then where’s the yardstick for measuring that phase? A fractious toddler could just as easily be put down to over-tiredness, or constant discomfort from teething. (No sympathy with the former – it’s not mandatory to have the whole house up for two hours during the night to play.)

Is THIS the Answer to Toddler Tantrums?

Having pondered the issue objectively – on a day my daughter’s disposition was bright and sunny – I came to this conclusion:

Much like with baby sleep, the problem lies with the folks, not the children.

Little Boy

Controversial, I know, so allow me to explain…

We all hate toddler meltdowns (or at least I’m yet to meet somebody who lists them as a favourite pastime on their CV). The thing is, they’re normal. And by ‘normal’, I don’t just mean common – I mean healthy: they stem from an important development in our little ones’ emotional maturity.

Q: Why Are Babies Unreasonable?

A: Because They’re Immature

Put simply, our babies are born ‘too early’. Their brains are still developing (hence the first months of life being coined the ‘fourth trimester’), and they are primed to react irrationally. They don’t understand very much, but they feel a lot – very keenly.

Their developing brains may not be mature enough to make sense of the world, but they are more than adept at producing stress hormones – in abundance…

Toddler Jekyll Hyde

I like the analogy of being in a foreign country, feeling completely disoriented, and unable to communicate; I know I’d feel anxious in that situation, and stressed too. This is what our little ones have to contend with on a daily basis, yet our expectations of how they manage those big feelings they’re not yet able to identify – let alone articulate – are high

Without getting too scientific, suffice to say that what’s going on is something pretty incredible right before your eyes, if you can only take a moment to appreciate it. (Perhaps when your little gremlin is in bed would be a good time?)

They’re refining the connections in their brains – if we could see it, we’d be in total awe!

Single Mother

Alas, all we do see is the result of those frustrations and hormones; which combined with a lack of experience in knowing how to deal with rage is, quite frankly, a recipe for a frazzled mum and dad.

Tantrums are no fun for the parent on the receiving end. But in the same way we’re told it’s unhealthy to bottle up our feelings as adults, it surely can’t be good for our toddlers either.

Do your toddler's meltdowns leave you cringing? Are oyu desperately seeking a way to improve their behaviour? If you are at your wits' end looking for a solution to tantrums, read this for a whole new perspevctive on encouring your child to behave better.

Q: Why Don’t Parents Deal With Tantrums Better?

A: We Would If We Were More Mature…

Or at least better equipped, better prepared, better educated.

If we don’t wish for our children to become the stereotypical Brit with a phobia of confrontation, then it’s critical we don’t fall into mandatorily stifling them.

Rather than attempting to forbid a display of heightened emotion, instead we parents need to suck it up and learn how to effectively deal with a tantrum.

To the Mother Whose AUtistic Child Couldn't Behave

By which I mean: don’t (necessarily) treat our little loves as devil spawn for humiliating us in the supermarket. It would be far more useful to teach positive coping strategies to our children – and implement them ourselves too.

Toddler Tantrums – A Parent’s Work is Never Done

I also don’t lose sight of the fact that this is yet another of the difficult tasks on a parent’s to-do list:

Teach Child How to Deal With Frustrations in Appropriate Manner

Yep, it’s our job to guide them through. And they learn by demonstration and imitation, ie. If you behave like a neurotic psychopath in the face of a difficult situation (say, for example, when you’re toddler is having a public meltdown) – well, you can rest assured that you’re serving only to reinforce that behaviour as acceptable.

So since we’re the adult, we need to be, well…the adult.

Are You Emotionally Overwhelmed As a Parent? - Mother and Daughter

I’ve not nailed it yet. But I’m trying very hard to be mindful each time my daughter goes a little bit crazy, that much like the overwhelming urge I had to launch myself at irritating colleagues when I worked in an office, she too gets really mad sometimes.

The difference being, my toddler has not quite learned how to manage those feelings. (In a way, I think our kids have the better approach – I’m pretty sure residual anger bubbling below the surface is not one of the principles of Mindfulness, and ain’t gonna help me be zen…)

A Happy Baby Mummy Equals a Happy Mummy Baby

I read something quite profound recently, which really resonated:

Mum sets the tone in her home.

This has pretty much become the motto by which I try to live my life – I want our home to be full of positivity and fun, and it’s on me to make that a reality. Impossible though it often feels in the moment, I shall continue to practice my mindfulness techniques with determination.

I have high hopes of some of that positivity rubbing off on Pixie and Elfin. I don’t want them to grow up being as highly strung as I used to be: it’s not a happy existence, and it repels people. So it’s on my shoulders to model the laid back temperament I do wish for them.

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Parenting, Tips and Advice, Toddlers

An award-nominated blogger and author, Kate is an experienced breastfeeding advocate, and expert baby sleep chaser. Her writing has appeared on Mothercare, Huff Post, and BritMums.

32 Comments

  1. Coombe Mill - Fiona Reply

    Your questions and answers are so spot on. Very well thought through, I must try to be more mature. #KCACOLS

    • Kate Reply

      Thanks Fiona, it’s not always easy, but I am trying to be mindful. I hope eventually it becomes second nature…

  2. On point as always. I particulary agree with what you say about a happy mum equals a happy baby. I really think a perfect example of this is my two, my youngest was a really happy and easy baby and I really think that this is because I was much more relaxed and happy second time round compared to first time where after a traumatic birth I was paranoid about everything! #KCACOLS

    • Kate Reply

      Thanks Emma! It’s great to hear that actually, because we’re beginning to think about a second, and I’m quite terrified! I want to be more relaxed, I hope I manage it! X

  3. I completely agree with all of these pointst. Although I do forgot sometimes and get really cross and then really annoyed with myself for definitely not being the adult. When my toddler gets to a point of tantrum breakdown I always feel quite sorry for him…I agree it’s part of learning to deal with emotions and it’s also a scary BIG feeling for him and if I can’t be the adult to help guide him through those then that’s not great. Oops. Mindfulness has got me through a lot but I really struggle to call on it with parenting, I definitely need to try to do so more. Good reminder! #KCACOLS

    • Kate Reply

      It’s not easy, it’s it. But then few things worthwhile are. And for me, this really is the ideal way to parent. We can only try our best x

  4. I’m all over the diversion tactics! I don’t cope well with strong emotions so it’s a struggle. He’s having them less and less now, and I’m not missing them one bit! #kcacols

    • Kate Reply

      I must admit, I rely on it quite heavily myself! If you can avert disaster then why wouldn’t you?!

  5. Educating Roversi Reply

    So true. I find my toddler is much harder work when I’m having a stress day, which obviously makes things ten times worse. What I should do is take a minute to have a word with myself, sit down and play with my son (no matter what I need to do) and just have some chill time. I’m sure it would have a positive effect.

    • Kate Reply

      Exactly, when things are not going well that’s what I try to do now. Give up on the chore(s) I was attempting and just play. It makes everything better. Chores can (and do!) wait.

  6. It’s very true – when I have a bad day, everybody seems to have a bad day. This is why self care is so important. Make sure you are fed and watered and slept and your days go much better I find!
    #KCACOLS
    Tori
    http://www.themamanurse.com

  7. justsayingmum Reply

    So many thought through points in this post – I particularly like the concept of Thankful Thursday. Mindfulness is just something I’ve recently been introduced to and the benefits and way of thinking are hugely beneficial. To try and apply it to every day and situation is difficult but to start with thankful thursday is a lovely notion – i’m looking forward to this thursday already #bigpinklink

    • Kate Reply

      It is difficult, but so worth it I think.

      Thanks for your lovely comment x

  8. Great post and with a really good insight. I tell my boys all the time that keeping me happy will make everything much easier!:)
    I try to be good and not have meltdowns but only manage about half the time!

    Mainy

    #KCACOLS

    • Kate Reply

      Noone can get this spot on all the time! We can only do our best x

  9. Rachel (Lifeathomewithmrsb) Reply

    I have thankfully past the terrible two’s phase but know i have a tweenager with the most awful strops! I am trying really hard to stay positive and be mature. Rather than arguing back i am allowing her to off load, chill out and then come back to me so we can talk about the issue.. Raised voices gets us no where. Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next Sunday

    • Kate Reply

      Sounds like a good way to handle things. I hope I am still practicing what I preach in years to come! X

  10. I think I was definitely better at this when there was just one child! Now if there is a massive tantrum on the school run, there is literally no time for anything but shoving him under an arm rugby ball style and ignoring his protestations! I do always try to talk to him after but often it has passed by then, probably due to the welcome distraction of the school playground. It’s totally true that if the Mum is off kilter, the mood of the whole family suffers. Thanks for linking up with us! #bigpinklink

    • Kate Reply

      Oh dear, I’m thinking I’ve spoken too soon perhaps, as I do only have the one! I hope my awareness and positivity will carry us through with a second… Eek!

  11. Interesting post. I do agree with what you say especially about the tone Mum sets in her home, That’s so important. I also believe that as adults, you should always walk the talk because yes, all eyes are on you all the time. Children learn from watching their parents. The non verbal cues are so much stronger than the I told you sos. #bigpinklink

    • Kate Reply

      That’s really why I’m trying so hard to be mindful and implement this attitude in our home. I don’t want my daughter to grow up around a stressed out mummy, it’s no good for anyone.

      Thanks for commenting. ?

  12. I’m in the midst of the terrible twos at the moment and it is so hard. Thank you for writing this and you’re right, a parents work is never done. #bloggerclubuk

    • Kate Reply

      Thanks Rach, thinking of you during your ongoing struggle! It won’t last forever x

  13. It very true that mum sets the mood of the house, something that I have recently realised and trying to hard to remember this!! Its tough to remember all the great things we should do, when they are in meltdown, but we can but try 🙂 x

  14. This is all so so true, it’s such a terrible feeling when I realise I’m not setting a good example for my daughter. I jut try more mindfulness. My daughter’s just turned two, but she’s pretty easy to distract from a full- blown tantrum, she mostly has mini tantrums that don’t last long, so far! I’m going to check out Thankful Thursday. #BloggerClubUK

    • Kate Reply

      That’s exactly it! As her role model, I want to feel I’m setting the best possible example. They’re little sponges, after all!

      Good luck to us both… Haha!

      I hope you like Thankful Thursday, I find it to be a lovely reminder of all the good in my life. ?

  15. Oh my goodness, I couldn’t have read this at a more appropriate time but I’m so cross at myself for having an adult tantrum infront of Ernie this afternoon. It really was one of those days. I really need to be more careful. Your post really is spot on. You have written it eloquently and effectively as always. Thank you for sharing it with us. I’m sure many will benefit. X

  16. Love love love this Kate. I felt it already but I love how you put it so neatly into words. Words I can believe in. Words I can live by. And words I can share. Thank you x

    • Kate Tunstall Reply

      Aw, that’s such a lovely comment! Thank you Cassie, I really appreciate that x

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