Toddler tantrums. Let’s talk about it. We are officially in the tantrum phase and let me tell you, it has challenged every single parenting philosophy I thought I believed in. Before you become a parent everyone talks about the “terrible twos” and “threenagers”, but no one ever mentioned that there is a period between 16 and 24 months when the tantrums start.
Maybe it’s nature’s way of preparing you for the next two years with a toddler but, all I can say is I was completely unprepared. In some ways, the toddler phase is such a fun time because they are becoming their own little people with their own little personalities. In other ways, it is a constant battle of wills and never-ending negotiations and emotional meltdowns that can leave you completely exhausted.
Thankfully, the tantrums do not happen often but, when they do, I want to respond in a way that respects my child’s feelings and allows her to express herself without shame or fear.
So, a few months ago started following an Instagram account called @biglittlefeelings and it has really helped me to understand tantrums in a different way and given me tools to manage my toddler’s big feelings. The whole “respecting your child’s feelings” is a new concept to me. I did not grow up in a time when tantrums were handled in such an understanding and empathetic way. I grew up in a very structured and disciplined “spare the rod and spoil the child” type of environment so, my approach to parenting may seem completely outside of the box to anyone who was raised like me. In fact, when I first started following Big Little Feelings, I rolled my eyes so hard I thought they would fall out of my head. I just could not wrap my head around the concept of empathizing with my child while she is having a tantrum over the fact that she did not want the pink cup, she wanted the blue cup. It seemed so ridiculous to me but, as I continue to practice being calm and understanding during tantrums, I have noticed that they are less frequent and much more manageable.
In the past, I felt the need to stop my child from having a tantrum but now, I lean into the tantrum and empathize with her feelings. The color of the cup might seem like a silly thing to have a complete meltdown over but, in her little world it is a big deal. So, instead of saying things like “Stop Crying” or “calm down” when my child is having a full-on tantrum because let’s be honest when has someone telling you to calm down actually calmed you down? I lean into the tantrum and empathize with her but, I still hold firm to my position. I am very understanding that she wants the blue cup, and I am sorry she is upset that the cup isn’t the color she wanted but, she is going to have the pink cup right now and later she can have the blue cup.
Does my parenting style work 100% of the time? No. Some days nothing works and I have accepted that nothing is 100% effective with a toddler. Am I 100% consistent all the time? No. I have absolutely had my moments of frustration and slipped out a “stop crying” here and there. So, if you see me at a park telling my child to “stop crying” know that I am a work in progress. I am still learning and trying to understand the right parenting style for my child. While my approach to parenting might work right now, I am going to give myself grace to change my mind and my approach if necessary. I am sure my parenting style will continue to evolve as my child gets older.
The toddler phase has taught me to be open to new and different parenting techniques because you never know what might work for your child.
Photo Credit :: Noelle Westcott Photography