Once upon a time, we had a sweet little boy named Nate who rarely got upset or threw fits but then one day he turned two years old and it all went to Hell…
Perhaps, that’s an exaggeration but in all fairness, he does throw at least one or two temper tantrums per day. When Nate was a baby he was extremely colicky for the first 12 weeks of his life. I remember it started around week three and peaking between weeks six to nine. There were days when I wanted to pull all my hair out. Being home alone while Kurt was at work and not being able to comfort him were some of the hardest and loneliest moments of my life but once we passed that phase, he was a completely changed baby. From 12 weeks onward he was almost always happy; there was rarely a day that would go by where he didn’t spend almost every waking hour smiling and laughing at something. I remember being told so many times by family, friends, and even complete strangers that he was just such a ‘happy boy’. Which was why we were so shocked when he turned two and began acting out and throwing these monstrous temper tantrums.
Now I know they’re called the ‘Terrible Twos’ for a reason but truth be told from everything I’d heard from friends with kids, the twos weren’t really terrible and in fact, a lot of them found that age three was the hardest. Yes, every child is different but honestly, it wasn’t just one or two moms who had told me this. I’d heard and read it from several different sources so I don’t think neither Kurt nor I were fully prepared for just what was to come when Nate turned two years old.
I swear some days he goes from 0 to 100 in the blink of an eye. He’ll throw a fit if he doesn’t get what he wants, he will scream bloody murder and throw himself onto the floor if you tell him it’s time to go and he doesn’t want to leave just yet, and he will even become physical (e.g. scratching, hitting, pinching) if he’s angry enough. We have had more than one public melt down where people have been staring at us because who the hell spawned that child? There are moments when I think it’s karmic payback for all the times I secretly judged those parents out there wandering around the mall or grocery store with a child who’s one second away from spinning their head in a complete circle and spewing green vomit every where.
I think what’s been the most difficult learning curve for us has been trying to keep our cool when Nate gets out of hand. There have been moments myself or Kurt, or both of us, have let the stress and embarrassment of Nate’s temper tantrum dictate our own anger. We’ve both handled situations wrong and had to remind the other that yes while a temper tantrum of that extreme is unacceptable, the way it was handled by one or both of us was also so. Throughout the last few weeks I’ve been endlessly scrolling through Pinterest looking for articles or blog posts on ways to deal and cope with these outbursts and tantrums. Thankfully, there’s plenty of moms and dads out there who have experienced or are currently still experiencing the ‘Terrible Twos’. I’ve read through many, many sites and I’ve compiled a list below on what we are doing to try to prevent and deal with these behaviours from Nate!
1.) Remain calm yourself- easier said than done when I’m trying to shop for groceries and my child is screaming bloody murder because I told him no he couldn’t have that delicious looking cupcake. But seriously, if you start becoming stressed and feel your anger rising, it will not help the situation at all. There are days when I just have to tell myself to breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth. Doing this a few times helps to keep my anger down and relaxes me enough that I can go back to dealing with Nate who is now probably dangling by his shoes out of the shopping cart. Seriously, remaining calm when your child is losing it can be the biggest helper in any situation.
2.) Pick your battles- as long as my child is safe and treating others with respect and dignity, some days it’s just easier to go with the flow rather than telling Nate no he cannot wear his race car belt with a pair of track pants because there’s no actual belt loops to hold the belt up and watching yet another temper tantrum ensue.
3.) Follow through on disciplines- my family doctor had told me when Nate turned a year old that an appropriate time out should match his age (i.e. if your child is one year old, they would have a one minute time out and so on and so on). So since Nate is two years old, if he gets put into a time out, he must remain in the corner for the entire two minutes. I do try my best to follow through with this form of punishment and not let him out early if he starts crying or I start to feel bad. He knows he’s to sit still until Mommy says he can come out and then he must say sorry and give a hug and a kiss. There have been times that I’ve threatened him with time out and he’s immediately stopped his temper tantrum and apologized but there’s also been many occasions where this ‘threat’ does not phase him and he continues to act out. Kids are extremely smart and pick up on things so one or two times of me threatening him but not following through, he might start to believe that mom is just “full of it” and he won’t be punished if he freaks out so I do try my hardest to stick to my guns and not give empty threats (and I know Kurt does his best as well with this).
4.) Talk to your child- when the screaming and body flailing subside, I try to talk to Nate about what just happened. There was one day where I was in the kitchen and Nate was in our family room playing with a little toy car, something happened and he couldn’t get the car to do what he wanted and he just completely lost it and I mean LOST IT! He threw the car and began screaming and pounding and kicking the floor. I had zero clue what had happened and at first honestly thought he had injured himself or something. I didn’t know what to do so I stood him up, continued to allow him to yell and began calmly saying his name until he stopped and looked at me. Once he had calmed down I assessed the situation and since Nate is still learning how to speak and communicate, I roughly gathered that he was trying to fit a car that was too big into his cup that holds his pretend kitchen utensils. I explained to him that it wasn’t possible for the car to fit into the cup and then actually showed him that even Mommy couldn’t make it work. I then found him a smaller car that would fit into the cup and we compared size differences. I think just the fact that I took the time to talk him through what had (probably) caused his temper tantrum was a good step in showing him that it’s important to talk about our feelings and not just act out because we get angry or upset.
5.) Give choices- on occasion Nate’s temper tantrums occur from us telling him what to do and even though he’s only two years old, he likes to think he’s much more independent than he really is. So when this happens, it can be easier to allow him to make a choice for himself and gives him the feeling that he’s in control. A good example of this would be when we tell him it’s time for bed. Typically, this results in a lot of “NO’s” being yelled and a tear of two but when given the choice “Okay Nate, it’s bed time what do you want to do first? Do you want to put on your pajamas or brush your teeth?” it distracts him enough from the situation as a whole and he forgets that this means he’ll soon be going into his bed. Does this work all the time? Certainly not. But the chance for him to make his own decisions is an important lesson for him to learn.
6.) Be a good role model- I know myself well enough to know that I’m a short fuse. Much like Nate, I can go from 0 to 100 real quick and as much as I want to be the very best version of myself 24/7 for Nate, there are times when I lose my cool all too fast. I wish I could blame it on pregnancy hormones but unfortunately, I’ve always been this way and it’s just amplified by the hormones. This being said, because I know I can be a bit of a ‘snap case’, I do try my hardest to breathe before I react. I’ve walked away from situations knowing that Nate was watching or listening because I don’t want him to think that if “Mommy over-reacts and becomes angry easily then it’s okay for me to do so too”. And as much as I hate to admit it, there’s been times my anger or frustration has been caused by directly by something Nate has done like sat on the potty for 15 minutes without doing anything only to immediately poop once a diaper has been put back on him or refusing to get his shoes and coat on when we’re already running late to something. When these types of situations occur, instead of losing it on him or whoever else, I try my best to take a breath and remember there’s a pair of little eyes watching and mimicking everything I do.
7.) Ride it out- unfortunately there are times when you literally just have to watch and wait for the storm to be over. It doesn’t matter what you do or say, there are some temper tantrums that just cannot be stopped. The good news is that eventually they will end and hopefully tucker your kiddo out in the process! Yes, it can be completely mortifying to be ‘that parent’ who’s child is literally laying on the floor screaming, but you know your child best and their temper tantrums best and if there’s nothing you feel you can do at that exact moment then you just have to let it ride. I can safely say that since Nate’s temper tantrums and outbursts started I will never judge another parent who’s child is having a public melt down again! Once you’ve been there, you quickly learn what eating crow truly tastes like!
As I said, Kurt and I are still trying to figure this whole “Terrible Two’s” business out ourselves. It’s been a long and tiring process but I think we are definitely making process with Nate! Slow, slow process but process nonetheless!