It has started. Maybe a little sooner than I naively expected but how would I really know what to expect with my first child? I’ve emphasized how spirited and feisty my little Eleanor is and that personality is stronger than ever. And so, the biting, hitting, scratching, body-flailing temper tantrums have begun.
I guess the hardest thing we had to learn, and learn QUICKLY, was patience. By 3pm and tantrum number 9 for the day, patience seems unobtainable. When she first started expressing frustrations and anger through tantrums I would simply become frustrated and angry with her. Why did taking that tiny penny away from her upset her soooooo much? Why is she throwing herself around in a fit of emotion, she is going to hurt herself! But I’ve learned through some mommy peers and experience that I simply must stay calm and be patient. The more calm I am, the quicker the tantrum passes. Are they still frustrating? Yes. Am I still utterly exhausted at the end of the day? Yes. But I want to be sure that I do whatever I can to help her through it safely and while calmly modeling behavior I hope she’ll exhibit someday as she matures. And this is SOO much easier said than done, especially when she hauls off and whacks me right across the face with what seems to be devilish grin OR contorted face of anger.
So many people say “woah, you’re in for it” and “she’s a handful that one!” And while I know that some of it comes from her extremely strong willed, passionate personality, I also do realize that this is a completely normal stage/phase/behavior for her age. When you really sit back and think about it, it must be incredibly frustrating to be in her shoes. With no way to fully communicate what she needs or wants, I sometimes don’t blame a little flare in her temper. She is running around, comprehending so much and wanting to explore and share so much with us – all of that with no ability to verbalize or understand how to emote accordingly. I think one of the biggest things we can learn as parents that will help us better understand our kids is that we can’t expect them to have the same faculties, mental processes, or emotional maturity that adults have. It’s so hard to see it that way because it’s almost like trying to imagine unlearning all that we have acquired our entire lives to exist the way a toddler does and step inside their brains. But it’s simple, they can’t comprehend everything we can, they don’t have the same emotional control we have, and they are easily overstimulated because they are taking in and learning so much more every hour than we are in an entire day or week even.
Ryan and I had our first real temper-tantrum shopping experience the other day. We were in a kid’s consignment store and Eleanor was in heaven! We let her walk around on her own and she couldn’t have been more excited to run up and down the aisles, play with the toys and simply explore. She was getting a bit overstimulated and when we were playing with some toys that we needed to put back she lost it. I felt it coming too. I pulled the toy out of her hand and she let out her signature “how dare you momma” squeal that is always followed with throwing her head back and tantrum ensuing. She is difficult to pick up or try to talk to or console. Ryan and I handled it quite well I think. We quickly decided it was time for her to leave so he took her to the car and I paid for our items. Neither of us lost our patience nor did we really try to shame her for her behavior. We want to start the routine now of acknowledging WHY the behavior starts, stay calm throughout any acting out (not reacting to her), and then discuss after she’s calm. We think it’s important to acknowledge emotions instead of ignore them entirely. It’s also important to set ground rules and expectations *yes she’s a little young now but it’s never too early to start talking about how we want to handle these inevitable situations. *
I pose a question to veteran Mom’s out there: what did you do when your toddlers were a bit young for discussing their feelings/actions and they completely melted down? I’m talking head-butting or going-completely-limp-then-flailing uncontrollably-and-screaming kind of melt downs. We feel like we’re on the right track as far as modeling our behavior for her but any and all advice would be very welcome!
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