We've all heard the phrase, "terrible twos," but I don't think I ever really realized just exactly what that looks like. OH.MY.GOODNESS! This morning, after a group Easter egg hunt, Owen got very upset when another child took the ball that he was playing with and I was unable to console him. He even started swinging at me, intentionally trying to hit me. It was at that point I decided to just leave. Humiliated and sure that the other moms (who I have tremendous respect for) were silently judging me, I did my best to contain his flailing arms and legs while I got his coat on, gathered our stuff, and all but ran out the door.
Sometimes (like in this video I captured today), he gets so upset that he resorts to hurting himself, usually by banging his head against whatever is close by.
For the most part, I try to lie him down in a safe place where he can't hurt himself and just ignore the fit, and often, that works – he usually calms down and gets back up a short while later. But the frequency of the tantrums (it seems he has more and more of them every day) and the embarrassment when they happen in public has got me at my wits end.
Out of desperation, I just typed "toddler tantrums" into Google and the very first entry that popped up was this link to AskDrSears.com. I don't know that I'm necessarily a huge fan of the Dr. Sears approach to parenting, but there were some good messages in this. Here are a few things that jumped out at me during my initial review, although I intend to go back and thoroughly study this subject as if my very life depended on it.
- Tantrums often come in two flavors: manipulative tantrums and frustration tantrums. If you feel that your child is using tantrums as a tool to get his own way (manipulative), give him verbal cues and use body language that says that you don't do tantrums. (In other words, ignore it, I believe.) Frustration tantrums, on the other hand, require empathy.
- You are neither responsible for his tantrums nor for stopping them. The "goodness" of your baby is not a reflection on your parenting ability.
- Temper tantrums in public places are embarrassing. Your first thought is likely to be, "what will people think of me as a parent?"
- Some toddlers' behaviors push parents' anger buttons a lot, and some parents have very sensitive buttons. The combination of the tantrum-prone child and a parent with a short fuse is at risk for major conflicts.
Uh oh. This last bullet really strikes a cord with me. I know that I have a quick temper. And I know that I need to get it in check – fast! It does no one any good for me to react to Owen's fits by throwing one of my own. And I am making myself completely vulnerable and transparent here by admitting that I often do just that. I know it's wrong. I'm working on it. I need God's grace (more than my own will, I'm positive) to overcome this personal weak point.
Here's another snippet on the subject (from here): Know your anger tolerance. If you lose patience easily when your child throws a tantrum, know when to walk away. Count to ten (or more!) so that you can gather your thoughts and react calmly. Remember, your son is simply acting his age. You aren't responsible for his tantrum, nor for stopping it. When a toddler loses control, he should at least be able to count on the adults to stay in control.
Ok, so here's my prayer, God.
First off, thank you, VERY dearly for blessing me with this child. I trust that you chose me to be his mother because you love me and know that I am doing the very best I can. But I need your help. Please help me to remain calm, focused, and loving during this dear child's trying moments. Help me to understand that he is simply lacking the verbal capacity to communicate his desires and help me to do my best to help him choose a more appropriate way to express himself. Help me to distinguish between a manipulative tantrum and a frustration tantrum and to react accordingly. Help me to remember to count to 10 when I feel my anger rising and my patience waning. Help me to be creative and think quickly on my feet when something simple and unexpected sets him off. And above all, help me to lean on you when I just don't know what else to do. Amen.