My four-year-old was not an easy baby, but he was always very much about having things as they “should be” and following the “rules.” Somehow that translated into very few true temper tantrums. My two-year-old was a much easier baby, in a lot of ways, but she is living up to all the expectations of a Terrible Two. More than once I have muttered, “I’m going to stick a fork in my eye” as she howls – while hanging on to my leg – about not having the orange straw cup she wanted – even though she got the cup she asked for just seconds before. Or she’ll push the pizza and carrots with hummus away with a concise, “No.” And it’s true, she had just asked for pizza with carrots a few minutes earlier.
And those mini-episodes are nothing compared to the shrieking, flop-on-the-floor outbursts than can last a worrying 15 minutes (and they feel like three hours). My husband has wondered if it’s “normal,” and even though I snipped back that of course it is normal, I have wondered the same. (Is it possible to have a rational, respectful, calm exchange with your spouse while a toddler is wailing and thrashing and red-faced? If so, please help me learn how!)
Enter the internet. Really, for most childhood issues and illnesses, I trust my Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide and my Complete Baby & Childcare much more than the Internets. But there is one area in which you can’t beat our interconnected selves: Being told that I’m not alone and that I’m not crazy (unless all the other voices out there are too, of course.) It’s the new I’m Okay, You’re Okay.
After another lunch that ended in a meltdown and my mutterings about self-inflicted utensils in my face, I headed to my Mac to seek commiseration and advice. A quick Google search was more satisfying than any frantic grab for whatever chocolate I didn’t hide well enough could ever have been. Affirmation, virtual back-pats, official sounding advice, and varied opinions about maintaining sanity.
New one! MommyShorts has a very helpful post about dealing with tantrums: “This does not mean you are providing your child any less love or affection, it simply means that your child wants to say, “I need you,” “give me a hug,” “do you still love me as much you did before I had a sister?” “show me you care about every little thing I do – RIGHT NOW!” But instead, the child misbehaves because they don’t have the insight to recognize they want attention and don’t have the skill to ask for it.”
“Dealing with tantrums can be enormously draining and stressful for parents.” from Raising Children Network (Affirmation!)
“One solution lies in stopping the shouting, scolding, or spanking; in getting oneself calm; stating clear rules and requiring compliance; noticing and complimenting appropriate behavior; and following through with logical consequences.” from Colorado State University (What do you mean I have to stop shouting? But yeah, I should stop shouting.)
“My two-year-old has started exploding in tantrums. If I give him his sandwich on the wrong plate, ask him to get into his car seat or tell him he can’t have another cookie, he starts kicking and screaming and hitting me. His reaction seems so extreme for such little things. Sometimes I feel so sad for him and other times, I’m just furious.” from Becoming the Parent (You took the words right out of my – sometimes shouting – mouth.)
“Take a deep breath. Remind yourself that yes, people will stare. They will stare as if their children have never, ever acted this way. Their children have acted this way. Everyone’s children have acted this way. Take another deep breath. And keep a calm voice.” from Avant Garde Parenting (I am so far from Avant Garde, but I like this. A lot.)
If it does nothing else, this imagined and virtual community of support makes me feel hopeful that next time (and oh yes, there will be a next time) I will handle my toddler’s Tasmanian devil emergence with more grace and less impatience than the last time. Wish me luck!