I’m handing over the blog today to author and mum of two, Hollie Smith.
Hollie’s written no less than ten best-selling parenting books, the latest of which – First Time Mum – was recently published. I was on a panel of mums to
bare their soul offer pearls of wisdom shared in this book so, obviously, it’s very good.
In fact, I think it’s SO good that I’ve leant it to my lovely pregnant friend in the hope that the non-judgmental balanced, real advice and scenarios will help calm her nerves as motherhood approaches (by the way – congratulations Leanne and John, I love you both. But please can you skip the passages where I’m quoted talking about going to the loo after childbirth? John doesn’t need to see that.).
You can read more from Hollie on her brilliantly funny and wise blog.
Anyway, enough of my rambles, I’ll step aside and let Hollie take the floor, with her take on toddler tantrums. Very fitting, considering the last few tantrum posts that have featured here…
So you’ve got a small child who’s giving you grief with their tantrums? You have my empathy. The pre-school years are fraught with challenges for parents, but toddler wobblers must surely be the worst of them. And I really, truly feel for anyone going through it – as Molly is right now – because I’ve definitely been there, and I’ve definitely done that.
What I can say, with the glorious benefit of hindsight, is that whilst tantrums feel like the worst thing in the world to be coping with at the time, they really are just a part of a behavioural phase that will (eventually) pass into the annals of your family history. You may even look back at them and laugh. Remember the B&Q debacle of ‘03? Oh, ha ha ha! How we chuckled when the manager requested our exit from the premises. Gosh, though, but didn’t that paint take a long time to come out of her hair?
I don’t mean to sound trite. Like I say, I know from experience that it’s far from funny trying to deal with a child whose knickers have become comprehensively twisted.
What I want to offer is reassurance that these meltdowns are entirely normal. And that they will stop at some point. Honest, they will.
You know what? I can’t even remember much about all those tantrums my daughters had, although I know for a fact they both stropped for England in their day, and that I struggled to cope with it: one detail that remains with me is a well-meaning but very misguided female relative’s suggestions that my eldest’s tantrums were so terrible, they might just amount to a behavioural disorder. Helpful stuff. And also bollocks, as it turned out. They were, of course, just an ordinary two-year-old’s tantrums.
There was one meltdown I can remember in technicolour, when my daughter went completely doo-lal in Claire’s Accessories. It was so bad that when I’d finally hauled her out of the shop in order to re-locate her fury to the precinct floor, I was sobbing. A woman I didn’t know – a mum with older kids – came up and put an arm round me. Her words still ring in my head: ‘Don’t worry. We all have days like these’. What a lovely lady. To this day I think she might actually have been an angel.
On the whole, though, I don’t recall the specifics. How often they came, how bad they were, what triggered them, exactly when they stopped. I suppose, a bit like childbirth, nature ensures the memories of these things are thoroughly muddied, otherwise no-one would ever go on to have a subsequent child after their first. My point is, if you’re going through it now and it feels like a big deal, I promise you it won’t, some day.
Meanwhile, if it helps, remind yourself why little kids have big tantrums. They have well enough developed brains to know what they want and what they’re feeling, but they don’t yet have the language skills to express it or the physical ability carry it out. Also, they’re immature little so-and-so’s. They just don’t have any anger management skills yet.
As for how to deal with tantrums, well, you undoubtedly know the excepted wisdom on that already. Pre-empt them in the first place by steering clear – whenever possible – of known trigger factors such as hunger or tiredness; and divert if one seems to be brewing, by any means necessary. Get down to their level and offer calm reassurance if you can. And if you can’t? Bite your lip and ignore them, walking away (as long as they’re safe) if necessary.
Truth is, tantrums are just something you have to ride out until you’ve reached the other side. And so is the phase in general.
When might this other side finally present itself? Look, I’ve got to be honest: this is a phase that can rumble on for a while. They call it the terrible twos but I’m pretty sure mine were still chucking regular hissy fits well into the threatening threes. Frankly, the feck-awful fours and even the frightening fives may continue to loom for you.
But stop they will. Remember what that angel lady in the precinct said, about Days Like These? Well I don’t have days like that anymore. My girls are ten and eight now, and I can assure you that they haven’t thrown a toddler wobbler in a long time. My Days Like These now involve struggling to get anyone to listen, eat a piece of fruit, or tidy their rooms. When the heat’s really on I must deal with ‘whatever’ attitudes, sibling scraps, and pre-pubescent tears that flow regularly, for no clear reason.
That’s kids for you. They stop offering one challenge. They’ll soon throw down another.