There is no way to discuss toddlers without mentioning their tantrums: the characteristic “fish out of water” flopping on the floor, kicking feet, screaming and thrashing body from side to side tantrums. We all agree, these meltdowns ONLY happen during inopportune times – and ONLY our kids have them – or at least so it seems.
Turn the table on tantrums:
Channel your inner toddler and imagine a world where moms are treated like toddlers. Play along with me, this will give you a better understanding of the evolution of a tantrum!
(Have you ever been in public with a cranky toddler and experienced rude strangers? I wrote about an experience like that in: “How to Handle Tantrums and Rude Strangers“)
You wake up one morning and your husband tells you in a very excited high pitched voice that he is going to take you to a new yoga studio – it is the BEST yoga studio in the area! So you start to pull out clothes to wear – your old comfy yoga pants and the stained but oh so cute shirt with a bird on it. You get dressed and your husband barges in and tells you (still in a high pitched voice) that you cannot wear that clothes.
He starts pulling the shirt over your head before you can even blink. He puts you in a NEW yoga outfit, but this one has a tag in the back of the neck that is itchy and the seams feel weird too – but apparently you HAVE to wear new clothes at this fancy yoga studio.
Leaving the house:
After you get dressed you find a colorful magazine you want to sit down and read. But once again, your husband has something else in mind – he reminds you of this yoga studio and hurries you along. Apparently you will be late if you don’t get in the car RIGHT NOW.
Ugh – and you were JUST enjoying the magazine so much – but oh well… in the car you go. You start getting in the car – but apparently not fast enough – so your husband picks you up and plops you down in the seat – and before you can say “WTH” he has placed the seatbelt across your lap.
In the car:
You start looking out the window – there is a dog, the neighbor’s wife is talking to someone down the street – you wave. Oh man, you really wanted to catch a good look at the dog, but you have already passed it. Wait – was that a squirrel? Did your husband just run over a squirrel – you ask him to turn around to go back – but he just keeps driving.
The drive takes FOREVER… the lights – the red ones stay red FOREVER… but FINALLY – after like three days of driving, or maybe it was only 14 minutes – you are not quite sure, your husband stops the car.
The drop off:
He grabs your yoga mat – he bought you a new one for the occasion. You wanted to bring your old comfortable yoga mat, the one that was broken in and smelled familiar – this new one smells weird and isn’t as soft – but oh well… it’s the one he wants you to use. You get into class, people are already on their mats, lots of people.
Your husband puts your mat down in a corner towards the back of the room – next to a girl, probably about your same age. You start to listen to all the buzzing around the room – you understand SOME words, but not all of them. It is like they are all speaking a different language and each of you can only communicate with a total of 23 words.
Your husband leaves – HE WALKS OUT THE DOOR – and leaves you ALONE in a room full of strangers – apparently they are all nice and you will have fun here – that’s at least what he told you in his high pitched voice.
The instructor comes in and starts the class. Dang it, all the other people in the room can follow his routine, but you don’t understand everything he is saying. This is annoying – the girl next you to keeps touching your water bottle – you wish she would just leave it ALONE already. You look over at her and give her a stern look – she doesn’t seem to care.
The instructor has now noticed that you aren’t following along in the routine. He comes over to you – what is it with people and their high pitched voices today?! He says a lot of words – he repeats some of the over and over. You think to yourself “keep repeating them buddy – I still don’t know what you are asking of me”.
You decide it’s probably best to just copy what the others are doing – who cares what the words mean anyway. Ok – now seriously STOP TOUCHING MY WATER BOTTLE – oops – you didn’t mean to push the girl while she had her legs in the air – she had it coming though – she should know not to touch other people’s water bottles.
You are finally able to do some of the pose by copying the other people, but JUST as you are getting a hang of it, the instructor turns on the light and class is over. So much for that final relaxation.
(I will never forget the day I rocked motherhood by handling a public toddler tantrum and a rude stranger – with a straight face!)
The pick up:
Approximately 5 days later your husband walks through the door again. He is wearing the same clothes and you have not had lunch yet, so maybe it hasn’t been quite 5 days, but it was at LEAST an hour or 8 – for SURE. He waves at you and walks over to talk to the instructor. You get up from your new stinky yoga mat, scratch your neck where the tag is itching you and RUN over to hug your husband.
He hugs you absentmindedly while he is nodding at something the instructor is telling him. Apparently YOU had a hard time getting along with the other people and you need to brush up on your instruction-following-skills. Well DUH – of course you would do as he said – if he would only speak in a language you could understand – and for the love of your eardrums – please stop with the high pitched voices already.
In the car – again:
Your husband folds up your mat, mumbles something about you not being allowed to watch HGTV tonight because you were an embarrassment during your first and most important yoga class today. He takes your hand and together you walk out to the car. You gladly get in on your side of the car – ahhhhh it feels so great to be back in a familiar setting – the car. The smells, the sound of the Starbucks pastry bag crumbling under your feet – the one you dropped last week, the warm seatbelt across your chest… it all just reminds you of HOME – which is where you are going now.
Finally you are safe and secure – so you ask your husband for a Big Mac for dinner. He did just drive by McDonalds – you recognized the big golden arches from far far away and you know that you are almost home.
The finale – the nuclear meltdown:
Your husband says “no” and reminds you of the failed yoga class and that there won’t be any HGTV on tonight. It’s been a long day, or was it a week – it’s hard to tell. But one thing you know – you are tired and hungry – so you do what any normal woman would do in this situation. You start kicking the seat in front of you. And THEN the screaming starts, first you do a test-cry… that doesn’t do much for you – so you try a full-blown screaming and crying fit – ahhhhhhh sweet relief of all those frustrations.
You kick some more – and at this point you are in full tantrum mode – but it has also been a long day. Oh hold on… your husband is yelling something at you – you are not sure what it is – but that doesn’t matter – the important thing is that his annoying high pitched voice is gone!
And that my friend is the evolution of a tantrum – seen from a toddler’s view of the world. I hope this helps you – and your toddler.
(Handling a tantrum in public and rude strangers is no small feat. I am sure you will enjoy this story!)
Please comment with your best advice on how to calm tantrums.
Singing is my personal go-to remedy. With Jacob I sang the ABCs, with Jordan I sang a Danish children’s song, Jansen gets Brahms Lullaby and Jonah’s song (although he’s too young for tantrums) is Edelweiss with custom made lyrics.
I sing “their song” over and over when they are melting down – and it’s really calming… at least for me – maybe not as effective on the toddler, but 50% success rate is still something!
Katie @ Pick Any Two says
This is such a great (and clever!) way to look at the issue of toddler tantrums. When you step into their shoes, you really do realize how tough life must be for them sometimes. Along the same lines, one of the ways I try to prevent tantrums is by always explaining to my son exactly what we’re doing and why. Love your song idea, too!
Mama in the Now says
I agree that explaining transitions ahead of time can really prevent a lot of tantrums. It’s funny when you know how to navigate them, but you yourself are too tired to manage things… and that is when you pay the price! 🙂
Claire Rheinheimer says
I feel bad for my little ones sometimes. I try to take the time to let my son (my daughter is only one) explore things- a favorite is the round “lids” at the gas stations. He knows if he waits till I get baby out we can go jump on those. But sometimes we’re under a time crunch and that doesn’t happen. That has to be so frustrating for him! He’ll be happily playing at home with his toys and suddenly, hey, get your shoes on it’s time to go! I’ll try singing, it might distract him. He loves Wheels on the Bus!
Mama in the Now says
Claire – “The Wheels on the Bus” is a personal fan favorite of mine – especially once you run out of things to sing about – start with all the animals… it is a sure crowd pleaser! 🙂
jenn huey says
I am glad that those days are over for me. I have two daughters however that are expecting this summer so will be dealing with these issues in a few years. I am curious to see how they handle these tantrums. I loved your post and think you are on the right track with how you handle tantrums
Mama in the Now says
Thank you, Jenn. Tantrums are probably my least favorite part of toddlerhood – but since we have been through this twice before I just keep reminding myself that our sweet little boy WILL return and that this is just a phase… a LOOOONG phase – but one that has an end! Good luck to your daughters and their upcoming deliveries!
gianna borden says
this is great advice, thank you! I have a toddler now and she is definitely in those terrible twos, and it is going to be hard to deal with our newbie arriving any day now!
Mama in the Now says
Gianna, we just went through adding a baby to the mix. I have to admit that the first few (three) months were the hardest on our toddler. He struggled some to find his place in the family – but he is now coming out on the other side a much more happy and well-balanced little boy. Just prepare yourself to “turn the table” and try to see things from your daughter’s side – I feel that helps to understand the nuclear flopping all over the floor meltdowns. (The meltdowns are still maddening though!) BEST OF LUCK with your new baby.
Thank you so much for making this such an easy way to understand. My son has this bad habit if screaming so loud when he’s unhappy, and so does my daughter. They get into the funniest yet earscreaching fights for toys and such. I suppose now maybe I should try being a little softer and less stressed out, and just try to learn their signs of discontentment. Overall I’m still blessed with loving kids, they are big on hugs and kisses, so I’m the lucky one here, getting a bunch of drool-drenched kisses!
Then your husband comes out with a common gentle parenting catchphrase…
“I won’t let you do that.”
* the volcano erupts *
“You won’t LET me do that!!!”
Adult tantrum ensues.
Mama in the Now says
HA HA HA – that’s hysterical! You are spot on!