#whatmomsgoogle - toddler tantrums

Saturday, June 25, 2016


Welcome to #whatmomsgoogle where your two resident hot-mess-moms discuss what real moms are googling. We don't promise to be right but we do promise to be real and it's highly likely you'll leave feeling better about your parenting. Or, at the very least, slightly entertained. 

This week's google search:

Toddler tantrums

why does my toddler
Thankfully no waking up screaming here.
Been hit? Check!
Toddler hit self? Check!
Felt like toddler hated me? Double check (like once a day)!!

I have good news and bad news about this topic.

The good news is, if you're going through regular toddler tantrums than I'm right there with ya sister. I'm here to commiserate and validate that, though seemingly wild and crazy, this is a normal stage (at least that's what I'm told and I'm going with that).

The bad news? I'm right there with ya sister. I WISH this was one of those things were I was on the other side and could offer a "don't worry it gets better, I know from experience".... Ya, not there yet. Is there a 'there'? Please, for the love of all things good in the world let there be a 'there'.

mom and smiling toddler
She looks quite angelic doesn't she? She truly can be but there are other times... times I can't reconcile that the girl in the picture is the same one throwing toys or screaming bloody murder because I asked her to eat the dinner she asked be made for her.

What is a tantrum?

Here's what momma Google has to say:

definition of tantrum
informal hissy fit? Anyone else wondering what a formal hissy fit might look like? Does aforementioned toddler dress up in her finest before losing her shit? 4 course dinner then tantrum? #confused

The key word being "uncontrolled". Perhaps it's just my experience (please tell me it's not) but I might also add something about 'for the most seemingly insignificant of reasons', 'lasting longer than you ever imagined possible' and something about being completely irrational. Yup, sounds about right.

Like most things, there's a spectrum of tantrums. I imagine it starting at "silent refusal to listen or cooperate" and ending at "full on demonic possession". 

grumpy toddler
this was one started on the "silent refusal" end of the spectrum and naturally took place during family photos. Super. I have to give it to her, girl NAILED the look of disgust.

If you've experienced the "full on demonic possession" then you know exactly what I'm talking about. It's the tantrum where, right in the middle, you look at your darling child and seriously consider whether or not this is, in fact, a Poltergeist-type situation because this is clearly NOT your child.

Then, and often for no reason at all, they snap out of it (or the demon leaves, whatever) and go on as if nothing happened. You're left dumbfounded - all of that for what? 

It's draining (for both parent and tot) and usually confusing (for both parent and tot) and you never quite know when you're going to get a tantrum (although, you can bet you'll be in the middle of handling raw meat for dinner or in the grocery store on the busiest day of the year because... well, why not?).

Just like you never know WHEN they are going to happen, understanding WHY they happen is a whole other challenge. Seriously, to say tantrums are unpredictable is putting it mildly. 

will my toddler
hahahah okay this isn't relevant but I had to include it because... UNIBROW. Seriously, I think I laughed for 20 minutes... and then I checked my kid's brows. Also, I the REAL question we got was "will my threenager be an asshole forever?" and NO it wasn't me that submitted it... swear. I'm pretty sure the answer is "no" but that could be wishful thinking. 

Some reasons my toddler has thrown a tantrum:

She didn't want to go inside/outside - sometimes being inside is the most fun EVER and sometimes being outside is the most fun EVER. Usually the "most fun" times are inconviently opposite of when I actually need my child in or out of the house. This causes all kinds of issues when you've got stuff to do. Need to make dinner? No, she's having WAAAAAAAAAAAAY too much fun outside. Doctor's appointment? A little challenging to get out of the house when your toddler is flailing around like Jennifer Beals in Flashdance.

I bought the wrong toothpaste - we got past the initial battle over actually brushing her teeth and then she realized I bought new toothpaste. NOT the My Little Pony one. What was I thinking? Don't worry, after a 30 minute meltdown she tried the new toothpaste and now eats it off the toothbrush before I can even get her teeth cleaned.

Her bike wouldn't move while she pressed the brakes - Bike riding will be fun I thought. Teaching her to ride will be an experience I thought. Ya, an experience it was friends. Daddy will now be the one to teach her how to ride her bike.

I peeled her banana - again, what was I thinking?

I put on the wrong episode of Dora - because I should obviously know and have readily available the exact episode she is thinking of. Right. I'll work on that (OR we could go back to the time where we had to wait for the once a week the show we liked was actually on the freaking tv). #generationnetflix

She wanted to wear the star-shaped sunglasses and I brought the heart-shaped ones - sorry child, was focused on your eyes not burning in the hot sun as opposed to the shape of your lenses. Should have asked.

She was not allowed to have a freezie before breakfast - worst mom EVER! Why wouldn't I want my child hopped up on frozen sugar first thing in the morning? Momma needs coffee, THAT'S why.

She asked for chicken fingers and fries, I made chicken fingers and fries - because sometimes, even when you do exactly what they ask, they freak out anyways, just to keep things interesting.

hell hath no fury like a toddler who just heard the word "no"

I have quickly learned that pretty much anything has tantrum potential and sometimes you'll never really know.

You might never figure it out because the reason for the tantrum is rarely ever the actual reason.

We're dealing with (usually adorable) little people who have undeveloped coping skills and haven't learned how to effectively deal with their emotions. For older toddlers, they might not be able to communicate OR things might not be going the way they hoped and a tantrum is their way to try and control the situation (by being completely out of control - I think the irony is lost on them... just sayin').

The first few tantrums I think I just stood, mouth agape, staring in disbelief at my child who I barely recognized in that moment wondering "what (the F) is happening right now?"
I tried to talk.
I tried to engage
I tried to reason.
I tried to support.
I struggled for power.

Ya.... you all know how that went.
For the most part, there's no reason in the middle of a tantrum, sometimes even a conversation is out of the question.

We have a few tantrums under our belt now (and by a "few", I mean quite a few... like yesterday) so here are some things I'm learning/have learned

baby pulling toddler's hair
if you're looking to incite a tantrum, just add a grabby sibling and it's just a matter of time

Toddler Tantrum Tips (say that 3 times fast)

Keep your cool - your toddler doesn't have the ability to manage his or her emotions so it's absolutely essential that you do. 1. to model the behavior and 2. because a tandem tantrum with parent and child will never end well. Ever.
This is so much easier said than done but it's so so important. I have, during many a tantrum, tried to get my toddler to take deep breathes and count to 10 with me. She sometimes cooperates but truthfully, I'm pretty sure this activity is more for me than her.

Distraction - if you're not in the thick of an epic tantrum you might be able to distract your child before things kick into high gear. This does NOT always work but I usually try. Having said that I'm careful how I distract. For example, if she's freaking out because she doesn't want to eat the dinner I made her (that she asked for - an no, I'm NOT a short-order cook, but sometimes I let her pick) I will distract her with something not food related, like seeing if she wants to color for a few minutes. I will NOT make her another meal or distract her with other food (unless it's on the plate I prepared for her).

Ignore/take a break - step away from the child. Seriously, if they're losing it and you're about to, just take a break. If you try and reason and talk in the middle of a tantrum, you're very likely going to get more frustrated. Your child cannot reason right now because their brain has literally been hijacked by emotion. You can't talk them out of it (I know, I've tried) and as frustrating as it is, some tantrums just need to run their course. Make sure they're safe and give them time to cool down. During the most outrageous tantrums, I take little miss sassy pants to her room, put her in her bed and tell her to call me when she's ready to talk. She always gets there.

Be firm but kind - older toddlers often throw tantrums when they want something they can't have. It might be easy to end the tantrum by just giving them what they want and, depending on what that is, you may choose this route; however, you can't allow your child to get what they want all the time. Mostly, because that's not how life works (though, if that changes I would like a million dollars, world's largest shoe collection and a never-ending supply of nice red wine - thank you very much). Yes, it might mean you have to deal with a tantrum, but they also need to know they can't have whatever they want, whenever they want it. I'll use the food example, if I prepare a meal (especially one I know my child likes or has requested) I will NOT make another meal just because my toddler has decided that's not what she wants anymore. Non-negotiable. I am kind about it though, or I try to be, and will say "I know you like _____ and that's why I made it for you, I'm not going to be making another dinner". The other night little miss had a 45 min meltdown because she didn't want what I made (and I had let her pick so her refusal was beyond me). I let her cool down in another room, when she was done she simply stopped, walked over to the table and ate her dinner (much to my disbelief... and yes, I uttered a big "WTF" under my breath when she started gobbling the "disgusting" meal.

Talk it over and hug it out - while chatting during a tantrum is typically not the most productive, it's essential after. I ALWAYS talk to my toddler once she's calmed down. We talk about how she acted, how I acted, how she felt (if she can verbalize that) and how she thinks I felt. We also talk about what could have gone differently (in toddler appropriate language). I ALWAYS tell her I love her and see if she wants a hug (she always does and truthfully, I usually need one too).

Look for patterns - you might notice after a few tantrums that some patterns emerge. This won't help solve all the tantrums but it could help you avoid a few. The first thing I ask when my toddler is having a tantrum is if she was hungry, tired, bored or needing attention. It's almost always a yes to one or more. Sometimes that's unavoidable, like when she missed nap and I'm trying to make dinner. I clearly can't shower her with adoration while I'm breading raw meat; however, if I'm on the ball (NOT always the case) I can give her a snack and make sure she's busy while I'm doing what I need to do.
Do tantrums normally happen around certain times of the day or around certain issues? For us it's usually pre-dinner or at dinner and is around food. Toddlers and food is a whole other post (or entire blog) but I know that this is one area where a lot of toddlers tantrum because it's the one area they can exhibit control when they're feeling otherwise pretty powerless. Fair enough, does't make it any less frustrating when you're a parent dealing with a child who is repeatedly refusing to eat things you know they like (not that I'm bitter). In this case, I find that sometimes if I give her control it reduces the likelihood of a tantrum. For example "if you don't like it, you don't have to eat it but you do need to sit at the table while we eat"... you know what? She usually eats eventually. Bottom-line - if you think about the patterns of your toddler's tantrums, there likely are some. Try your best to come up with ways to avoid tantrums before they start (without allowing your tot to be a little dictator).

Pick your battles - this is a pre-tantrum thing. I know my child and I don't agree on a lot of things. I have ideas about how things should go and so does she; however, some things are just not worth a conflict. We're dealing with little people, people who are trying to figure out who they are and find some kind in independence. As parents, it's our responsibility to foster that but also ensure they're safe. I try to have a list in my head of things that are non-negotiable. For example, anything that has to do with safety is non-negotiable and no matter how upset she gets, I'm not relenting. For that reason she must be buckled in her car seat properly no matter how much she protests, she is not allowed to run into the road or parking lot no matter how carefree she feels and she is not allowed to hit her brother (for his safety, obviously). Having said that, I've learned that there's not point arguing about what dress she's wearing, whether her shoes and hat match her outfit or how her hair is. Sure, I like my child to look super cute (which she is anyways) but if it makes her feel like she has some control and saves me a battle royale then she can wear the pink shirt with the red pants and purple rain boots **cringe**

toddler tantrum tips

Now before you go rushing over to see what the ever-witty Abbie has to say, please validate me by telling me about your child's epic tantrums. No really, I need this.

AND don't forget to come back next week to see how we answer your burning mom questions... or questions about burning something. Whatever.

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