Just this morning, I narrowly avoided the famously coined (and universally understood and appreciated); ‘toddler tantrum’. The warning signs were clear – clenched eyelids married with flushed skin and traffic controller-like movements – signalling the sour beginnings of a passionate (and very public) display of physical and audible terror.
Toddler tantrums, or ‘temper tantrums’ (depending on which popular ‘Google’ discourse you are more comfortable aligning yourself with), are titles that describe the ultimate emotional meltdown one is likely to experience – and come close to mastering – between the age of one and three. One particular online medical advisory board suggested that these isolated acts of distain can often feel like the behavioural equivalent of a summer storm; sudden and sometimes fierce. We, as parents need to keep our cool, maintain our position, and get to know the most effective exit route and diffusion techniques – or so I’m told.
It could be because you said no to fairy floss; or perhaps it’s a knee-jerk reaction to the mere mention of ‘home time’ as the jumping castle deflates with pace at the close of a party – it could even be because they won’t choose to sleep with anything other than the only soft toy you know you misplaced somewhere between the grocery shop and the front door…and they know it too.
There is absolutely no pardoning shame in admitting that your little being – the one raised and guided by you to be somewhat predictable in nature and intent to date – has suddenly undergone a peculiar and unpredictable personality change. Surprises were once gifted in return for good behaviour, or for when vegetables were successfully consumed off melamine plates. Surprises now? Well they’re about as effective as a dried out pack of wet wipes on sticky mitts. I recently pondered this seemingly overnight shift in behaviour, and promptly began making mental notes of how I might best remedy these outbursts whilst firmly maintaining my authority and sense of peace. Research via a fresh internet tab inspired my inner tactical genius – but before too long, I discovered that my desired notions of Zen-parenting might be as elusive and unrealistic in theory as one’s own ‘Elf on the shelf’ coming to life this Christmas. What I was dabbling in actually proved to be a sea of virtual literature about failure and success; no triumph without tribulations. The relief washed over me as I eagerly digested this ‘suck it and see’ approach from a number of fellow global mothers and child-experts alike – it was going to be better than ok to just wade through it patiently and with understanding…or complete bewilderment. Either way; the old adage of ‘this too shall pass’ felt relevant.
My son is delightfully creative and unique; his ability to create magic and wonderment on a whim inspires me daily. Voltaire (1694 – 1778, France), felt passionately about valuing the human spirit in all its complexity. He once said; “appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well”. As a parent, we can’t always guarantee a polished ‘Wills and Kate’ performance as we mop up spilled milk drinks, dramatically tipped in protest; or attempt to calmly put items back on shelves that were feverishly tossed into shopping trolleys in an act of toddler highway robbery. What we can salvage is the knowledge that these events are temporary – the full moon can only torment the inner werewolf for so long.
So next time your little one attends a play date, claims just one pink gumboot for a bare foot and proceeds to throw the entire range of plastic grocery items on your friend’s lawn; try to smile and make a game out of the clean-up. Ultimatums make the soul squirm and shut down the opportunity to negotiate. I’m no expert but I’ve found that being firm and exercising familiar and consistent boundaries works best. I try to limit bribery (unless said jumping castle is going down exceptionally fast), and focus on eye contact and meaningful interaction where possible.
This week my mantra is to address the four letter word that often hits the fan when dealing with toddlers in this trying age category. Don’t look up anticipating what might soon fall; instead look forward – a summer storm is fleeting, and you might just see a rainbow through the clouds.