2017 came and went. While I'm still getting used to the fact that it's already the start of a new year, I am perplexed with how much has already happened in the past 2 months. As much as we wanted to ease our way into the new year, we've been busy working, attending various baby events, traveling, hosting visitors, celebrating birthdays and participating in a couple of photoshoots (for our little amateur baby model). Amidst it all, however, we've been challenged with the much anticipated toddler tantrums. That's right, everybody. IT HAS BEGUN.
Do you remember grade school emergency fire drills? The toddler tantrums in our household are much like that. Stop, drop, and roll! I'll give you a real life example: Zachary wanted to open something that simply does not open (a bluetooth speaker that was already playing music). She asked me to "open" it for her as if it were a box, with something inside. I tried to explain and show her that it doesn't work like that and it cannot be "opened." Zac literally tosses the speaker, drops to the ground, and rolls around fake crying. I have to admit that sometimes the cry has tears, but more often than not, she forces them out. It is quite the performance, actually.
Although that example was ultra-specific to something a toddler her age cannot understand, these tantrums can be triggered by things she does understand. Like wanting to chew on straws, spitting out her drinks, or opening drawers and cabinets after already being told not to do those things. Because these are all things she knows she shouldn't do, she looks me right in the eyes, mischievously right before she does them, probably thinking to herself, "I'm not supposed to do this, huh? Bwahaha! Watch me!"
Some days are rough when you are a stay-at-home parent. Especially when the tantrum consists of the unacceptable, occasional hitting. The frustration can be extremely draining when you are with your kid all day and night. On one hand I feel so tired of being upset with her, having to repeat myself over, and over again. On the other hand I feel bad for being mad at her because I know that she's a young and doesn't always know any better.
Because this has been going on for awhile, I've finally started to find things that work for us. I wanted to write this out in case anyone else finds these tips helpful.
1. Don't say "Don't"
This is something I learned from my teacher, Michelle when I took a kids yoga teacher training at It's Kids Yoga. When you say "Don't touch that!" or "Don't jump!", kids often don't hear the "don't", so they do the exact opposite of what it is you want. What kids need are reasons and instruction. So rather than saying "Don't touch that." you could say, "You might get hurt if you touch that." Instead of screaming “Don’t run!” Saying “Please walk so that you won’t fall down.” In our household, because she’s so young, I’ve settled with what I know she understands. Zac knows exactly what it means to get an “owie”, so one of the phrases I usually default to is, “You might get an owie if you touch that.” There’s nothing she hates more than an owie.
2. Child proof the house
I noticed that most of the times I’m frustrated with Zac is when it involves her safety and getting her hands on things she’s not supposed to, like climbing up stairs or opening cabinets. It occurred to me later that if I could prevent the frequent “No’s” (eg. no running, no touching, etc.) then I’d be a much happier parent and she, a much happier toddler. I eliminated the constant “no’s” by simply childproofing with things like baby gates on the stairs and kitchen, using electrical outlet sockets, and adding silicone pads to sharp corners. Of course, it’s not the only solution for dealing with busy toddlers, but it was a great first step.
3. Be patient
This one is an ongoing project of mine. It requires a lot of deep breaths, prayer, attention and understanding. Some people may or may not know that I work part-time from home in addition to being a full-time stay-at-home-mom. Patience can wear thin when you are trying to meet deadlines and feeling completely distracted when your kid is in need of attention. I constantly have to remind myself that my child doesn’t even realize I’m working, so she’s not purposely trying to interrupt me. In fact, I’m probably disrupting her routine when I have to catch a team meeting or put in several hours at a time. So learning to just get through the hard days with empathy has been a process and a wonderful learning experience.