I’ve spawned a monster!
When pregnant, your thoughts are filled with picturesque images of you and your child; rocking them gently to sleep whilst singing a lullaby, playing peek-a-boo over the back of the sofa, rolling around on the back lawn – parenting perfection. So when you’re tearing your hair out at half past three in the morning, or you’ve resorted to pretending that your two year old screaming toddler doesn’t exist whilst doing the weekly shop in Asda, you begin to wonder how on earth you have managed to spawn such a terror!
You’ll be longing for the days when your child would feed and sleep and feed and sleep, when you could put them down and they would stay in one place, when you could feed them their dinner and they ate it without lobbing it in your face. This behaviour tends to occur anytime after a child’s first birthday and then peaks when they are between two and three, hence ‘The Terrible Twos’ i.e TANTRUMS. Please don’t be deceived into thinking that this behaviour only occurs during your child’s second year. It may last for two or three years, so we need to know how to deal with this to prevent ourselves from insanity.
What do I wish I’d known?
5 things you need to know about tantrums
1 – Never react to attention seeking behaviour.
This includes deliberately throwing items at you, biting, kicking, screaming, yelling, everything that you thought your child would NEVER do. Calmly put your child on the floor, tell them that they are naughty and why, move anything they can play with and walk away. Leave them to cry it out, scream it out, yell the house down. They will soon learn that you are not responding to negative behaviours.
2 – A whining child is extremely irritating, but they all do it!
A good tip is to quickly divert their attention before the climax of a full-blown tantrum. This may mean finding the dog’s bone unusually interesting, pretending that you’ve heard the doorbell and then hunting for the invisible postman, ignoring the whining and sitting on the floor playing with their favourite toys whilst making exciting noises. They’ll soon forget why they were whinging, if they remember they were doing it at all.
3 – You’re not alone.
As well as knowing how to react, I think it’s essential to understand that you are not alone. It is more unusual to have a child which doesn’t have tantrums than it is to have one that does. You are not a failure, you’re not a bad parent and you can get through this! Biting, kicking, scratching, nipping, hitting and screaming are all normal behaviours for a toddler.
4 – Stay in control. No matter how hard it seems and at times when you feel like you are completely out of control, try to stay calm. If you can’t be calm, walk away. Don’t let your child see that they have caused you to react.
5 – Ignore your child·
Most bad behaviour can be discouraged by ignoring your child when they are acting in a disobedient manner. This includes swearing or using inappropriate language. Don’t laugh (however hard that may be) and don’t shout either. Calmly but firmly say, “That’s not a very nice word. Don’t say that again please.” Leave it at that. Any further attention will have an adverse effect and cause deliberate misbehaviour.
· What about the behaviours you can’t ignore? Banging their head against a floor? Running away? Children who bang their head against a floor won’t do it for long but if it is worrying you then you can try and distract them (as per whining technique). Honestly though, a child who has reached this stage of a tantrum isn’t likely to respond positively to any intervention from their parents and is better left to get it out of their system. If your toddler is engaging in other activities, whilst having tantrums, which may be detrimental to their health, for example, holding their breath, intentionally vomiting or throwing themselves around the room, it is best to consult your GP or Health Visitor for advice. Each child is different and there are complexities surrounding children who hold their breath, which I am not qualified to delve into.
If your child is running away, make sure that you keep them as close to you as possible at all times. Don’t get them out of the car/buggy until the trolly is ready, keep them on a harness or strapped well into a pushchair. Being assertive is key here.
Sometimes our children seem inconsolable, we feel that there is nothing we can do to calm or pacify them. Whatever you do leads to another fit of crying or misbehaviour. In cases like this, which go on for longer than is usual for your child it’s best to go to your GP; just to check that there isn’t an underlying issue. If you feel like you can’t cope take time out and get someone to help you.
Call anyone, but don’t put yourself in a situation where you are alone and distraught.
If it’s getting too much then perhaps send your child to nursery for a couple of days a week, it may be that they need some different distractions and stimuli.
Most of all, remember this is normal, it will go away and there are people who can help you through this difficult time. And then hit the teenage years.