Running from the Law: One Year and Beyond - Taming the Temper Tantrums

Thursday, May 8, 2014

One Year and Beyond - Taming the Temper Tantrums

Hello and welcome to the first post in the "One Year and Beyond" series.  For the next eight weeks a group of 10 moms will be hosting this series on toddler issues, from tantrums to traveling, and from bedtime battles to food fights.  Each week is a different subject (schedule below) and we are encouraging all of you to share your experiences on your blog and link-up with us!  We are definitely not experts on any of these subjects and we would love to hear from you!

Today's topic is a good one: Taming the Temper Tantrums.  If you're here in the hopes that I have answers and/or solutions on how to end and prevent your toddler from tantrums, you are going to be disappointed.  However, if you're here because you're hoping that I have good stories and photos of my toddler acting like a possessed demon and having an epic meltdown while I stand back in horror and contemplate taking tequila shots at 9:30 a.m., then you've come to the right place, my friend.
I'm pretty sure that everyone in the world is familiar with the phrase "terrible twos," but until you are the parent of a said terrible two year-old, I'm not sure you can quite grasp the extent of the terribleness that comes with this age.  My sweet baby boy can go from cuddling to clawing, hugging to hitting, kisses to kicking quicker than I can blink.  This age has me constantly feeling like I am RUINING HIS LIFE! with every single decision I make.  I thought the newborn phase was tough, but this is proving to be a whole new ballgame.

It is so hard seeing your child become a hysterical mess.  I want my kid to be happy more than anything in the world, so it pulls at my heartstrings knowing that he's frustrated or unhappy.  I can sympathize, but sometimes the sympathy can turn into frustration on my own part and I have to keep my emotions in check and not throw a tantrum myself.   I'm not going to lie, I have a hard time dealing with my son's tantrums.  My husband is much better at it than I am and I'm learning from his example.  I hate being the bad guy, but I know that toddlers need to learn rules and be disciplined for their actions.  I constantly have to tell myself that I'm doing this for his own good (does that ever really work?).  Trying to lay a strong foundation of rules (no playing with knives) and actions (no punching the dog in the face) is much harder than I ever anticipated.  This whole parenting thing is tough.

Like I mentioned above, I don't have the answers to solving this problem.  My kid can throw one hell of a tantrum and sometimes I can't do anything to stop it.  But there are a few pieces of advice I will pass on (because otherwise, what's the point of this rambling post) that I think are some situations...some days...with some kids...some of the time.  (Yeah, good luck.)
1. Take solace in the fact that this is normal (and you are not alone).
Your kid is not possessed by a demon, insane or destined to become a drama major.  He's acting out because he's trying to express himself and his emotions, but lacks the words to articulate what he wants or skills to control his emotions.  It's a phase and won't last forever (although that totally does not make it any easier or less embarrassing while it's happening).  Just tell yourself, he will outgrow this...he will outgrow this...he will outgrow this.  Knowing that nearly all parents deal with this always makes me feel better.  Honestly, this might make me sound awful, but I get a tiny bit of validation out of watching another mother deal with a hysterical toddler because it's so nice knowing that I'm not alone.  Yes, of course I feel terrible for her and want to give her a hug too, but man it is great when it's not your kid.

2. Keep your cool. 
This is one of those bits of advice that everyone loves to give that makes my blood boil.  Everytime my husband tells me to stay calm or keep my cool while my child is hysterical, makes me want to rip his head off and drop kick it down the street.  But yeah, I guess keeping your cool is important. Me losing my shit isn't going to help the situation and will probably only cause my child to really freak the eff out because his mother is insane.  Take a deep breath, leave the room (as long as your kid is safe) or just turn your back and count to ten.  Or do what I do...go get your camera and take photos of your poor hysterical child that you can post on the internet and later use to embarrass him.  Mom of the Year...right here.
3. Distraction, distraction, distraction.
Everything I've read about this age tells you to try distracting your toddler when they're having (or on the verge of having) a meltdown.  Ha!  Easier said than done.  When this works, it's freaking genius; however, my kid is awfully damn persistent and as he gets older and wiser this is getting harder and harder to pull off.  It does work, but it seems to take a lot to do these days.  I used to be able to distract him pretty easily with going outside, switching rooms, finding the cat, a different toy/activity, etc. Nowadays, distracting him from what he wants means coming up with some strange/novel/weird suggestion that catches his attention and intrigues him more than he wants whatever it is he's tantruming (is that a word?) about.  Just yesterday I stopped a tantrum with "Will you show daddy where the cat puked on the bed?"  That got his attention (apparently he's really into cat puke).  I've also had luck with "Do you want to look for the chipmunk in the drainpipe?" "Do you want to fill up your water pail with mud?" and "Can you show me where the dead bird is?"  Toddlers are weird.  Figure out what intrigues them and exploit it.  

4. Know the triggers.  
I think one of the hardest parts about dealing with tantrums is not always knowing when they'll happen.  Yes, there are the obvious triggers (taking away candy, not letting him dump out the dog food) and then there are circumstances where tantrums are more likely to happen (over-tired, over-hungry, over-stimulated, anywhere in public); both of which you can anticipate and avoid.  But there are also things that are fine one minute, but will set them over the edge the next.  Tantrums in our house can happen over anything and as much as I think I know the triggers, they are constantly evolving.  For example, lately we've had tantrums over putting on shoes, diaper changes, getting the wrong color sucker, a broken cookie, food on the wrong side of the plate, bath is too bubbly, bath is not bubbly enough, ice in his water, no ice in his water, the wrong socks, the right socks on the wrong feet.  And God forbid I even think about offering him the blue pajamas with the bears on them!  End of the world.  It's exhausting living with a baby land mine.  And just when I think I have him figured out, he changes.  I'm getting to the point where I guess I should just expect a tantrum with everything and then be pleasantly surprised when one doesn't happen.  
5.  Acknowledge their feelings.
If you've read The Happiest Toddler on the Block, you already know this is a major part of the way Dr. Karp deals with toddlers.  He suggests talking to them like tiny cavemen and acknowledging whatever it is that they want so they know you "get it."  So when your kid is losing his mind because he can't have chocolate right before dinner, you have to get down on his level and speak to him in short, repetitive sentences that he can easily process so he knows that you understand what it is that he wants and how he feels.  "Mac wants chocolate. Mac wants chocolate NOW.  Mac wants chocolate.  Mac is mad...mad, mad, MAD.  Mac WANTS the chocolate right now, but mama said no.  Mac is mad. Mac wants chocolate!"  I've tried this a lot and it's actually pretty amazing how quickly he will stop crying and look at me and nod in agreement.  He knows that I get it and that makes him feel better.  Then Dr. Karp suggests explaining to him why he can't have the chocolate (it's almost dinnertime, you need to eat dinner) or offer an alternative (would you like some carrots instead).  This is the hard part and my experience is that he starts crying and screaming all over again and we have to repeat the process multiple times or I have to just let him deal with it and get over it on his own.  I get it, I wouldn't want the stupid carrots either.  Just saying.  

Ok, so that's my two cents.  Maybe that helps.  Or maybe you can just feel better knowing that you're not alone and that your child isn't the only one losing his mind multiple times a day.  If you have a terrible two year-old, hang in there, mama.  I'm told three is way worse.  

Feel free to check out the other host mamas in this series who have some wisdom of their own.

From Here to EternityWords About Waverly
my delicious adventure Photobucket
My Delicious Adventure                  The Life Of Faith
Running From The LawThe Olive Tree
Running From The Law             The Olive Tree          

May 8:          Taming the temper tantrums
May 15:        Weaning from breastfeeding or from formula to cow’s milk 
May 22:        Dealing with "Mommy Guilt"
May 29:        When people share their opinions and how to lovingly handle it
June 5:         Traveling with your toddler
June 12:       How to get your toddler to eat their veggies…or their food at all
June 19:       How to make time to blog in the busyness of motherhood
June 26:       Bedtime battles (nap or bedtime)

We'd love it if you'd share your experiences along with us each week.  Please feel free to link you post up below and use the button/photo at the top of this post.  
I hope you'll join us! 
An InLinkz Link-up


  1. Such great tips, I can totally relate to ALL of this! It really can be the most frustrating thing ever! PS - I will come take morning tequila shots with you. ;)

  2. These are great tips to pocket away for a couple years from now! :) I will totally be checking out the book, "The Happiest Toddler on the Block" now. Thanks!!

  3. Great advice!! Its so hard and frustrating dealing with tantrums!! Love this series you and the other moms are doing! I linked up!!

  4. Oh my gosh, it's like you wrote this post for me! I laughed out loud and #3 and true!

  5. Oh my gosh, I was laughing so hard!

    Where's the cat puke? OH, Lordy.

  6. I had not heard of #5. I will have to try that tactic next. :)

  7. LOL love the pictures of the Mac tantrum and your distraction methods. Carter is 1 1/2 now, and last night, my husband turned to me and said, "this is just the terrible two's early, right?" I'm sure it will only get worse!

  8. I love the acknowledging your child part. It's so so important. I started that with my daughter too and even though she doesn't always understand what I'm saying I'm still starting that habit of explaining it to her and helping her understand :)

  9. Well, you just read my thoughts on my toddler post so I think you pretty much already know how I feel about this whole toddler business (LOL) BUT I guess the one thing I've learned in dealing with tantrums is to keep a good sense of humor about it all. I think sometimes I find it harder to control myself during a tantrum than to try and control and my child, lol. SO, I reach for my camera, post an IG pic and usually post a sarcastic or funny picture. I'll admit, sometimes I'll even mock her. Just last night, Chickie threw the biggest fit I think I've ever seen - all because I had the audacity to wrap her up in her towel after getting out of the bath. ????. So, I stood there, threw my head back and started screaming like she was. When I looked up, she was standing there laughing at me and I jokingly said, "See how silly you look when you act like that??" Worked like a charm. So long story short - humor. Humor goes a looooong way.

  10. This is great. Not that your child throws tantrums about everything, but that you are able to have a sense of humor about it. This had me laughing from the start; and I especially like that you choose to take pictures of your child as he throws fits. And thanks too for the tips, I'm sure they will come in handy sooner rather than later :)

  11. Oh man...those pictures are too good. I dread the day we have a full blown rage fest in a public place. It's cringe worthy!

  12. I don't know what I liked better - the advice or the photos! Thanks for doing this. I actually need to try #5 ASAP.

  13. #5!!!! I need that book! That is genius! So simple but I never would have thought of that!
    And #1 is my fave. A couple weeks ago I had to carry out a screaming, screeching (I suspect she was cussing me out in baby language) thrashing NOT SO precious Mia of Target. I was dying on the way out as I just KNEW everyone was staring me down with every step I took. Of course I never get annoyed when I see other kids throwing tantrums... only sympathy for the mom because I know that it will be my turn any second. But once it was happening to me I forgot that every other parent in the WORLD has been through the same thing! It's way easier to handle the public tantrums when I don't have the added stress of thinking that no one understands and I'm totally ruining their experience at said place.

  14. Loved reading your tips! Great job on your post!

  15. Ha! Those pictures. Isn't it crazy that you get to the point with tantrums that you are able to snap a pic instead of crawling in a corner? haha! But I am with you, consistency, and getting on their level is key! I always try and talk my kids down before they really explode. But if that doesn't work I just let them figure it out for a while before I try and step back in.

  16. Love these tips! And could use every one of them. Recently tantrums happen over the silliest things here too. The other day I offered Mason some milk and holy cow. You'd think I did something HORRIFIC with how he reacted. WOW. Toddlers...

  17. I'm giving you a mental round of applause. The cat puke, perfection. We had a monster melt down the other morning because he was trying to eat the pancake batter from a large whisk and I said no at the same time some dripped on his hand and footie pajama. And the level of hysteria that ensued was so unreal it was comical. All that dang important emotional development they're going through.

    And reading your list of things that can trigger Mac just makes me laugh because I can hear Declan getting hysterical in my head and the slow breathing and sighs as he starts calming down once we've figured it out, but you know that one wrong move and it's on again. big time.

  18. I read the happiest baby on the block and LOVED it. So far his Theories work well with my baby. I didn't know he wrote a toddler book as well. Need to check it out :)

  19. I always feel so much better after I remind myself that it's perfectly normal for toddlers to throw tantrums and that they WILL outgrow it!!

  20. Great list. I'm pretty sure most days that I just CANT handle it anymore!! Seriously- the babe turns 3 in a few weeks and I just can't even entertain the thought that 3 might actually be worse than 2. I spent yesterday (mother's day) morning crying my pregnant, hormonal little eyes out while Lucy rampaged my sister's house (we are visiting her in Aspen) in the midst of a demon possessed meltdown. Happy mother's day to me!! Okay okay- of course I'm totally obsessed and in love with the girl...but omg...this sh*t is hard!! Here's to adding another babe to the mix in just a few months ;) We can do it, mama!! (right???)

  21. love this post - such a great capture of something so universal!
    i hate to be the bearer/confirmer of bad news but...three is way WAY worse :). at three they are smarter and more manipulative but still as dramatic and intense. they are also mean in a way they aren't at two because they have better language skills to support them telling you how much they disapprove of what you're telling them. oh, and they think they don't need naps anymore, but they waaaaayyyyy still do.

  22. GREAT post and so true. Just when I think I have tantrums figured out everything changes. Eloise had the biggest meltdown ever at Starbucks, on Mother's Day when I had to put her back in the stroller. I am pretty sure people thought I was an abusive mother by the way she was screaming… all with the $5 smoothie I just bought her to avoid said meltdown.