We’ve been hit with a horrible tummy bug this week and it seems to have brought with it not only a very poorly Amelie but the return of serious tantrums. We haven’t had such bad ones for a while and now they’re happening again I’ve realised the way I need to respond to them has changed.
I remember Amelie’s first tantrum vividly, she was about 20 months old and we went to a garden centre with her grandparents. She had missed her morning nap and it was getting close to lunch so we said it was time to go. At this she snapped, it was a full blown tantrum – rolling around on the floor, screaming, running away from Nick and I, she didn’t want to know. In the end I had to leave her (obviously safe) a few steps away from us to scream it out. I was mortified, upset and didn’t know what to do. Luckily there were some VERY nice people there who gave me some words of encouragement, ‘we’ve all been there love’, ‘don’t worry she’ll calm down’ but when you’re in that moment and out of your comfort zone it’s horrendous, the worse thing is seeing your child out of control and upset and I felt really helpless. After about 10 minutes (which seemed like an hour) she calmed down, walked over to me and put her hands up for a cuddle – we bundled her into the buggy and left very quickly!
The worst one we’ve had was on holiday. I know now if you are flying with a toddler to have EVERY distraction with you – 20 packs of chocolate buttons, an iPad, LOADS of stickers, toys, colouring books, you get the idea. I wasn’t prepared for our first flight with a toddler and when we got held on a runway for 45 minutes and they insisted Amelie still had her seatbelt on sat on my lap you can only imagine the melt down. 300+ eyes were on us as she screamed and screamed. I have to admit I might have cried at some point until the most amazing lady behind grabbed my hand and one a few rows back caught Amelie’s eye and started playing peek-a-boo. My saviours! On the way home I was armed with diversions and thank goodness we had no tantrums.
You can see it from their point of view really, why would you want to be dragged away from somewhere when you’re having fun or why would you want to do something you really don’t want to do? We don’t do we and nor do toddlers and that’s fine. At the moment she can’t articulate it in any other way so it’s my job to try and either divert or distract!
After the first few tantrums I started to learn the triggers, they’ll happen when she’s tired, she’s hungry or she’s ill. I am therefore very strict on her still having a nap, not being out too close to lunchtime and if it’s not at those times my warning guard is up for an illness coming.
Recently her tantrums have changed though, she seems more frustrated, she gets much more angry and some of my tried and tested ways to soothe her don’t work anymore. So this week I ditched my old ways to deal or avoid tantrums and had to learn all over again, this is what I have learnt this week…
- Divert, divert, divert – if I see her getting frustrated or close to a tantrum I find a favourite task or toy and try and divert her attention to that rather than the problem that’s about to cause a full on melt down.
- I always have a snack handy, especially if we’re out close to lunch time and she’s been active.
- I find giving her choices helps, so do you want to wear this top or that top?
- If we are leaving an activity she is enjoying I give her a warning, for example 10 more swings on the swing then we’re getting off.
- Keep calm – I’m quite an emotional person and do get upset when I see my children upset so I am having to learn to take a deep breath and not get upset or angry.
- A lot of her tantrums this week have started when she wants me and not Daddy which is hard when you have to look after a second child or when you’re ill (as I am now writing this). I can see why, I’m with her all week and we are very close but Daddy is pretty cool and fun too so we are making sure her and Daddy have more one on one time together so it’s a bit more divided.
- Amelie used to calm down with cuddles but this hasn’t been working recently, she gets more angry with any attention I give her. I now just have to ensure she’s safe and leave her – once she’s calmed down she’ll come and find me. I try and have a fun activity ready for when she comes back.
- And finally, move the baby away. Amelie is very good with Evie, but when she’s angry I move Evie out of her reach just in case. I also make sure that I am on my own when she calms down so she knows I am there for her without a distraction. When she’s calm I’ll pick Evie up again.
I had some wonderful advice after an awful tantrum the other day from the lovely Instagram Mummy’s, thanks as always ladies. One that I really loved and am going to try was from @intrepidbebe. She suggested reading books about feelings to try and explore the feeling they have, so if they’re angry to get them to explain that and then both see if we can do calm. We both tried doing calm this morning in the middle of a tantrum and me doing ‘ahhhhhhhhh’ sounds stopped her crying and I even got a hint of a giggle.
As with everything with these little people tantrums are one of those phases of growing up and I am sure I’ll look back on this in a few years time and smile at the situations we’ve been in. It’s our toddlers way of expressing themselves, so I see it as a good thing – she’s developing and learning what she likes and dislikes, it’s just my role now to help her start articulating her feelings in another way. Wish me luck!
How do you deal with toddler tantrums?