Okay. Here I am. Vulnerable. Exhausted. Confused. Holding a writhing toddler, mid tantrum.
Where did I go wrong? When did this start? Who am I kidding, I know exactly when it started.
It started right before two.
That’s right- the terrible twos. That’s where we currently reside with our wonderful first born, aka Monkey. She was such a good baby- full of smiles and love, so independent and strong. And then that independence turned into her ignoring direction. The strength turned into stubbornness. What I once considered to be a strong willed but sweet little girl turned into one of my deepest, darkest nightmares. She wasn’t strong willed- she just did what she wanted to, end of story (or so she thought.)
It started small- I would tell her something simple like come here, or let’s go, or don’t take your diaper off. Moments later, she would be running in the opposite direction (often bare from the waist down with a pile of diaper and pants left behind.) This shortly turned into a full-blown tantrum at any given moment, right before Bug arrived. My parents swore that it was because she knew change was upon us- I prayed this was the case, and that once things settled, we would be back in paradise.
I was wrong.
The first time I realized we were too far gone, she sat in a hamper for 20 minutes and pitched a fit.
There’s lots of ways to deal with a tantrum, but it seems like the most consistent feedback I get is to just “leave them alone.” Screaming? Ignore it. Rolling around on the floor like a possessed entity? Act like they’re not even there. Running up and down the hall, crying rivers of tears? Oh, that’s nothing. Just my toddler, don’t mind her. But doesn’t that feel wrong, sometimes? I mean I get the reasoning behind it- if you feed into it, it’s attention. And any attention is still attention, be it good or bad. But what about when she starts kicking her door? Or better yet, slamming it? (I feel like I have a teenager and she’s only been on this earth for two years, lucky me.)
Now, there’s always the spanking solution (if you can call it that.) People seem to be very for spanking, or very against it. There’s the stigma- “oh, I don’t want to hit my child!” or the “They won’t listen unless you give them a reason to!”
Me? I’ve tried it. I’m not great at it. And what I mean by that is that any time I’ve spanked them, whether it be on the hand or a quick pop on the butt, I immediately feel bad. I start thinking of all the things I could’ve done besides the spank that could’ve maybe solved the problem. Now, I was spanked as a kid. A lot of us were. But I know a lot of people who weren’t. And we all turned out okay (for the most part.)
As far as the cause? Oh, she’s brought me a sippy cup before. Okay, this should be easy, right? She’s thirsty. Simple. I fill it with water- big mistake. The cup is now thrown, and she is lying on the ground, full meltdown in progress. She has something she shouldn’t- I catch her. We lock eyes. And then she darts off down the hall, break neck speed and no looking back. She’ll drop it and run, and I’m left chasing after her, usually stumbling on whatever it is she left behind as evidence. When I catch her, its full on pandemonium. Tears, random noises that are surely words in whatever language she speaks, broken English that must mean something horrible because I’m just the worst mom ever.
I’ve tried timeout. She doesn’t care, she just finds something to distract her- or cries for the whole two minutes. You know, they say it should be one minute per year of their age- so hers is two minutes. That leads to two minutes of screaming, all out fall out before I’m just left standing there, wondering “Whats the next step?”
Stern talking to? Tried it. You see, communication seems to be an issue when the person you’re trying to communicate to doesn’t know many complicated words. Plus, she just ends up mimicking the things I say to her (the best she can) and ends up telling Bear what to do. She’ll even wag her finger if she’s feeling extra fiesty.
Admittedly, I’m very much the parent who thinks way too much about what those around me think about my parenting style. I am still unsure of myself, even after two years of experience. (What a pro, right?) I’ll overthink something until the cows come home- should I yell? Should I try to get down to her level and explain? What if she starts harming herself, or Bear? Surely you can’t just reason her out of that. She’s a two year old, she doesn’t have a sense of reason. No one who smears Vaseline everywhere and pours baby powder all over the carpet has a sense of reason.
So what’s the solution for the “terrible Twos”?
The Three-nagers? Fearsome fours? (The list goes on- I’ll spare you the rest.)
The problem with tantrums is there is no real solution. Tantrums have so many different triggers, and each trigger can be unique to each kid. Inability to communicate something to us, something doesn’t go their way, they fall and hurt themselves. All of this, for a pint sized human, can be cause for a full on fit. And you can tell me your kid doesn’t throw fits, and I’ll tip my hat to you. Maybe I ate too many french fries when I was pregnant, or I didn’t sleep correctly. Or maybe this is just my punishment for everything I put my parents through. Regardless, no two kids will respond the same to different types of discipline and reprimand. What might work for one, doesn’t necessarily work for another. So for now, we just have to keep on keeping on- and try to predict what color cup will please our tiny dictator.