Toddlers and preschoolers are in a league of their own! I mean these little beings who are just about putting sentences together, can’t wipe their own backsides, nor feed or fully dress themselves can bring a grown person to their knees. If you have ever encountered a toddler or preschooler meltdown then you know what I am talking about. The high pitch scream, the shouting, throwing of anything in their way, slamming of doors – sheer bravery in my opinion. I wouldn’t even dream of slamming the door in my parent’s presence and I’m a grown woman! And not to mention if this is in public, like the park, supermarket or at a family gathering. You don’t want it to be your child that has the tantrum, and everyone is looking at you for two very unfair reasons. One being, how are you going to respond and, two, how comes this child doesn’t know their place?
Whether your little one is screaming from the rooftops, has the word no on repeat, or just being defiant, even the strongest amongst us can be broken by a toddler tantrum. And tantrums can seem so much worse if you’re stressed, tired, not feeling yourself. This exacerbates the situation to a whole other level. But all is not lost because even though those heated few moments feel like a lifetime there are some ways of ‘managing’ the situation and reducing the stress levels. Besides, they will grow out of it, right?
Before I go through a few tips, we must remind ourselves that these little humans are learning and absorbing everything around them at the speed of lightning. Their brains are going from 0 to 100 in a matter of minutes. Plus, they are navigating a host of emotions that they don’t understand or know how to process- bless them! Let us be honest, some adults still don’t know how to manage their feelings in their big old age- no shade, facts. The formative years really do shape the future of our children’s lives. So here are some tips I use myself.
I’ve said it before, and I will say it again-Pray. Pray for strength, for patience, self-control, whatever you need, pray for it. They say it takes a whole village to raise a child so we need all the help we can get. Some of you may not be believers and that is fine. Therefore lean into whatever you find that stops you from throwing your dummies out of the pram and having a meltdown yourself! Being a parent isn’t for the faint-hearted.
I’ll be real, God and I have regular conversations about my little girl and why this child is really trying to test me. I mean, does she not know who I am? The way in which she holds her face is just wow! I’m ready to tell her about herself.
With a 3-year-old, going on 13, my daily morning prayer includes me asking for strength to handle this young lady or at least give me the strength to remember that she is only a child and we are not going to indulge in a verbal war.
You may have completely forgotten what it was like giving birth and for some of you, I don’t blame you. Hopefully one of the few things you may remember is the breathing techniques- those deep breathes. I’m talking about those where you are breathing in from deep in your diaphragm and breathing out like you are blowing up a balloon. As the saying goes ‘in through your nose and out from your mouth’. Do this continuously until you feel yourself calming down. It is amazing that something so simple, but so vital, we get so very wrong!
You can teach your little one this technique, too. It will help them learn to calm themself down. Proper breathing techniques are beneficial for a number of situations such as when they are fearful or in a state of panic. Correct breathing is a vital life skill that will serve them well as they grow.
TALK TO YOUR CHILD
I purposely chose to rename the ‘terrible twos’ and now the threes because you are encouraging yourself to start off on a negative foot. How you articulate your child’s behaviour or how you talk to them will form who they think, they are. If you continual use negative words towards them, they will start to subconsciously believe it, which could foster negative patterns when they become older. Speak positivity and words of affirmations into your child, so even though they are doing wrong they can learn from the situation and remain positive in themselves. I know it’s easy to get lost in the moment because you’re riled up but talk to your child, not at them. Find out what is the reason for their outburst. Explain to them that this is not the way to express themselves, show them how they should behave.
I know the older generation always say ‘children should be seen and not heard’- which I strongly disagree with! Children are people too. They should have the space to learn to express themselves and as parents, it’s our job to help them do that. If a child is taught not to speak or express themselves when they become an adult, they will not be able to articulate themselves effectively because they have never been taught how to do so. They will go into a default mode of what they have learnt which could get them into serious trouble.
We must remember that everything that happens to them in their youths will determine who they become as an adult. No pressure, but it is so important how you handle these situations. For instance, if you shout at your child every time they make a mistake, they will be fearful of doing wrong and will naturally associate shouting with making mistakes.
here have been many times when it has become too much, and I have had to walk away, or my other half has had to take the reins and be the disciplinarian. When you feel yourself getting heated and starting to get angry, walk away! There is no point in you getting angry and shouting or screaming at your child, this will only make you feel bad and affirm that the behaviour they are displaying is appropriate. Walking away can diffuse the tension in the room giving you both the opportunity to reflect and calm down. It also helps to teach your child how to work through their emotions by removing themselves from a situation.
This is not a weakness. In fact, this is strength. Knowing when to walk away or give someone space is about self-control and reading the room. Displaying positive behaviours and techniques provides your little one with coping mechanisms that will benefit them later in life.
Of course, sometimes everything may just go out the window and you forget everything, and that is ok. You are human and will not always react in the ‘correct way’. So, as you show your child patience, show yourself patience too. After all, we’re all trying to balance our emotions.
If all of the above fails, remember, this is a phase and they are only this young once. Don’t allow yourself to get caught up in the moment and become embroiled in World War 3, it really isn’t that deep. Some days you will get it right and on the days you feel like you don’t, have an extra glass of wine (or whatever is your preference) and wait for the day to be over, so you can brace for yourself for tomorrow. Who said things get easier as they get older?