“His constant whining, crying and temper tantrums drive me and my husband nuts!” a reader told me recently. Because I’ve had the blessing (and curse) of being the mom to probably one of the world’s worst tantrum throwers (in the form of my first daughter), this reader asked for my suggestions. Parenting a toddler who seems emotionally uncontrollable can be insanely challenging. Thankfully, there are real-world solutions. Instead of emailing this reader privately, I’ve decided to share these effective solutions here for your benefit also.
While she was talking like an adult at 2 years old, my firstborn daughter was throwing tantrums daily that often lasted more than an hour. These tantrums continued until she was 4 years old. Unfortunately, it wasn’t something she grew out of. I had to find a solution to stop them because I felt like I was probably the worst parent in the world to have a daughter behaving like she did. Ever felt that way?
I did find effective solutions that have proven beneficial in raising my three children. What I’m going to share with you in this article on dealing with tantrums has the potential to change your child’s life and yours making it happier, quieter, and sane. (There are numerous other things to consider, but I cannot cover them all in one article.) I do believe the principles this article are based on are extremely relevant in the journey toward developing the full potential in your child. So, let’s begin.
To start, let’s take an imaginary trip. Imagine spending two years of your life with someone else doing everything for you. If you move from one room to another, it’s because someone else made it happen. If you ingest something, it’s because someone else made and physically gave you the drink or food. If you see something, it’s because someone else put that object within your seeing distance. Absolutely everything you experience during those two years are orchestrated by someone you cannot talk to. They make every decision for you no matter what you desire or feel.
How angry would you be if your caretakers didn’t believe that you had legitimate ideas, desires or needs because you couldn’t verbally communicate them or physically take care of yourself? How would you feel if, when you cried in frustration at your lack of ability to communicate with them you were dealt with as if you were choosing to be rebellious and belligerent? How would you start acting? What would happen if daily you were given a dose of a chemical that caused you to be emotionally uncontrollable, but your caretakers didn’t realize this and blamed the outbursts on your own choice?
In addition to all this, your caretakers have been informed to expect, at the end of these two years, that you will start crying and screaming at them. They’re trained to anticipate major, full-blown tantrums caused by your age. They call it the “terrible-twos.” In their minds it’s an expected phase that will bring disaster into their lives. They’ve been taught discipline is the key. Punish the horrible negative behavior consistently…or else.
Now take your imaginary trip and compare it to the real life of your child. Contrary to popular opinion, experience tells me that more often than not children throw tantrums for legitimate reasons. I believe it’s imperative that parents deal consistently with the “whys” not the “cries.” A child who is respected as having reasons for their emotions is a child who will not be quickly thrown into unsightly displays of frustration and anger.
Whys of Tantrums
In order to deal with the “whys”, you’ve got to know what they potentially could be. Let’s look at what can cause intense anger and frustration in a young child.
1. One reason children throw tantrums is because they are feeling frustrated about a communication process. They may want something but are not able to explain properly or fast enough to make the adult understand. For any human, no matter their age, being understood incorrectly is an incredibly frustrating experience. Often parents have become so accustomed to thinking for their child as a baby, they forget that babies’ minds develop quickly and early on become capable of having real thoughts of their own.
2. Many parents have the attitude of “you’re the little kid, I’m the parent, so shut your mouth and do what I say.” A trauma unit ER doctor who may be 30 years younger than his patient doesn’t sit by and do nothing because of the age difference. He would be convicted of serious medical neglect if he didn’t use his much younger opinions and knowledge to save the life of his patient. Just because a child is 2 years old doesn’t negate the fact that he or she has legitimate thoughts, feelings, needs and opinions. Sure, the child’s experience is immature in areas, but their thoughts and feelings are very real and deserve the same respect an adult expects for their thoughts and feelings.
3. Contrary to popular opinion not all toddlers like to watch a big, purple, non-realistic Barney dance gleefully across the TV screen over, and over, and over, and over. Many toddlers enjoy new things and lots of variety. For a child who is in the throes of intense mental development it can be incredibly frustrating to repeatedly see the same thing or play with the same toys. Toddlers are designed to expand their mind and learn new things at an intense rate. Lack of visual and tactile variety can put a child into irritation overload.
4. Being treated like you can’t do anything because you’re too small physically or not old enough can anger a toddler. Toddlers instinctively know that they absolutely must learn to be like adults and do what adults do. They are also wise enough to know that practice makes perfect. If most opportunities to practice are stopped midstream by some bigger and stronger person, these little guys are entitled to outrage.
5. While not common knowledge in many American households, there are scientific studies as well as numerous anecdotal experiences which clearly demonstrate that many, many children are affected by minuscule amounts of artificial food colors and artificial flavors in food. They react to these artificial additives in a variety of ways including uncontrollable tantrums, hyperactive and distracted behavior. Moving children to a diet totally free of artificial additives allows them to realize their own internal peace. A child who is sensitive to artificial additives cannot be expected to behave in a controlled manner, and the chemical influence can last up to seven days after ingestion. The child’s uncontrolled, chemically induced behavior causes tremendous frustration for the parents and child.
6. When a child is a late talker, not being given tools to enable them to communicate can create unnecessary frustration. There are some great videos that teach babies and toddlers sign language. This can help bridge the communication gap and allow a child who has legitimate opinions and needs to voice them while their oral vocabulary develops. Allowing a child to grow into their twos and threes without an effective way to “talk” can result in serious frustration.
7. Being expected to understand something said in only one way can drive a young child to anger. Children are often told to do things in words they do not understand yet. They all have different minds and perspectives so being told something in one way only may not work. Adults need to be creative in their communication process, patiently and respectfully trying a variety of ways to get their point across. If they are not willing to work at this, a child will continue to misunderstand what the adult is saying resulting in frustration and anger in both the adult and child.
Image Credit(s): Win John via sxc.hu
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