Oh my holy different child! I used to be able to brag that Princess Pea was the amazing bizarre toddler. She rarely whined or threw tantrums. She was happy and go with the flow. The best was that she was hardly ever defiant. Then she got her first real cold. After a week of fevers, cough and stuffy nose, Princess Pea was a different lady. She was now this willful child who threw tantrums. The worst part: It was all my fault. Princess Pea had reached the defiant stage of toddlerhood and became a full fledge tantrum child because I struggled with following through.
I was so frustrated with myself. I know this stuff inside and out. I’ve done it forever and a day with other people’s kids, but for some reason, with my kid, it was totally different. Maybe it was the added love and emotions tied in, maybe it was the fact that I’ve been with her, her entire life, maybe it was the fact that the stakes were higher; whatever it was, I had to nip this problem in the bud fast!
We went for our typical nature walk. I brought the stroller just in case as we walked to the trail. Before we left I told her the rules, hold my hand or the stroller in the street or driveways, she needed to stay near me, and she needed to listen to what I tell her to do. These didn’t seem too crazy and unreasonable. To Pea, the really were. We walked along and she felt that she needed to assert her independence. I felt that she needed to be safe from cars. This was a tantrum. But I stayed strong. Every time she didn’t listen, she got a warning, next time it was a consequence (usually riding in the stroller).
I found myself questioning every consequence and standard I set. I realized that I was all over the place with my follow through. The other night I gave a lot of thought and prayer to this situation and realized what I needed to do. I needed to write down what my expectations are and the consequences for them. Having them written down somewhere would keep me from throwing strange ones out there for no reason, but also not second guess my expectations.
Here are my outside expectations:
- Hold hand (or stroller) while crossing driveways or streets
- Or be carried
- Stay within 10-15 feet (eyesight)
- Or hold my hand
- Stay on sidewalk around the complex (to avoid dog poop)
- Or hold my hand or be carried
- Listen and follow directions
- Or hold hand, be carried, or go home.
The list is easy to make and easy to remember, the consequences are simple. It’s not hard to follow through and remember to do so when the time arises.
As time went on, Pea reverted back to her normal sweet self. One week we had an especially lazy week. I was a bad mom, I let her have too much time on the tablet watching Youtube Kids. I noticed her attitude shifted. It was time for a reality check. Bad behavior is often caused by something else. We can diagnose too much candy, too much screen time, too much of something, but I realized that the tantrums were how my child expressed her frustration. I remembered something Dr. John Lund said. Frustration is caused by expectations not being met. I realized that my frustrations were always because I expected something and it was not fulfilled, the same is true for our children. Depending on the age, it is hard for them to express what that expectation was, but we play detective and figure it out. When Pea rages, it is often because I said something or did something. To limit these issues, I give warnings “hey you can do one more thing and then we have to go.” Or “after this, we’re going to do this”
Warnings help change the expectations from what they were, to what is going to happen. Paring this with creating your own expectations and follow through will make those hard moments much easier to deal with.
What do you do to resolve tantrums?