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How we deal with tantrums

Image: Getty | Words: Sarah Conway

The twos are probably the most hyped stage of parenthood, yet, now they’re here, I’m totally unprepared.

What do you say to a girl who’s piercing everyone’s eardrums because you want to leave the cheese aisle in Sainsbury’s? How do you handle the weight of other people’s stares when she lies down and beats the floor in the library (because you just caught her trying to escape onto the street)? Is it normal for her to shove a boy for no reason, other than that she realised she could? Or to clamp her teeth on my jaw and giggle as I try and prise her off?

As I don’t have any answers, I’m going to ask the internet. Which is always a very good idea. I’m lying. It’s always a terrible idea. The only time it’s ok to ask the internet parenting advice is if you’re entering, and want to win, a World’s Worst Parent competition (so it doesn’t matter when it tells you that you are in fact the world’s worst parent). But the internet can be useful if you navigate its treacherous waters carefully, avoiding parenting forums and landing instead in the safe harbours of blogs you trust and anything containing the letters ‘NHS’.

This is the advice I’ve picked up from the internet today. If you’ve just arrived in the terrible twos, then good luck! And do let us know if you have any tips…

Learn the ‘tells’

I’ve heard friends speak of these ‘tells’ – the little clues your child is tired or hungry, before they tip over the edge and bite your face. According to the NHS, difficult behaviour often happens because a toddler is tired, hungry, overexcited, frustrated or bored, so if I get in there first with a nap or a cereal bar that might help. I can’t help noticing, though, there’s a very small window of happiness that exists somewhere between bored, frustrated and overexcited. Toddlers are setting us up to fail.

Avoid the iPaddy

I’ll set the scene for you. We’re in gymnastics and G is running up and down a trampoline (approaching overexcited on the litmus test of toddler emotions). I reach for my phone thinking, ‘I must record this perfect snapshot of toddler happiness’, which instantly made G want the phone. Cue what Not Another Mummy Blog’s Alison has termed the iPaddy: an uncontrolled burst of anger and frustration, typically in a young child, when a tablet is removed from their possession. If only I’d read her post before gymnastics, I’d have found that meltdown a lot funnier.

Find a method that works for you…

The NHS says to choose your method of dealing with difficult behaviour carefully as you have to commit to and stick to it. Mother Pukka hubby Matt sidesteps traditional parenting advice and instead looks to the FBI for inspiration. Yes! Funny, useful and something both the husband and I can get on board with.

1 Active Listening: The first stage in gaining a perpetrator’s trust. Ask what’s up, nod a little and paraphrase what they’ve said. Toddlers work at speed so you might get away with: “You don’t want to wear shoes today?” (sad face).

2 Empathy: While you might just want to Sellotape the shoes to your tiny tyrant and leave the house, the FBI would advise “emotional labelling” at this point, which is showing empathy to the perp. Try: “Sometimes it does feel unfair that we have to wear shoes.”

3 Rapport: Once you’ve established a common ground (ambivalence to shoes) you can establish a common goal (not getting wet feet). If you’ve gone with: “I also didn’t like wearing shoes”, you might follow up with a tale of how you once caught a cold because of the time you went out, without your shoes, and got wet feet.

4 Influence: With trust established, you can move the conversation on to achieving your shared goal, such as getting to nursery to play. You will then all skip gaily outside, your nipper suitably wrapped up against the elements. Hostage situation over.

From Parenting The S**t Out Of Life by Mother Pukka & Papa Pukka

Don’t feel alone

There’s a lovely (and very popular) post by The Unmumsy Mum’s Sarah in which she writes An Open Letter to the Mum in the Red Coat. Here’s an excerpt…

‘I wanted to let you know that you really didn’t need to be embarrassed that day. Granted your children were being total sods. I mean they were. But that isn’t a reflection on your parenting and it isn’t a reflection on you. By all means, rage at them, swear under your breath, cry, get the emergency Bear YoYo Snacks out as bribery – hell, do whatever you need to. But please don’t check over your shoulder as if you are anticipating a judgmental glare, because we are in this together.’

That post has made me want to weep. Maybe it’s because I’m so tired, although given its popularity I’d bet I’m not the only one. It’s so easy to feel alone out there, but we parents are muddling along, facing the same challenges together. If you want to share stories/do shots of gin until you hit oblivion, please feel free to contact me at the Twitter link below.

Happy parenting! x

Follow writer, blogger and mum Sara on Twitter: @SarahLouWrites