Real Talk: My tricks for handling toddler temper tantrums
Does your child throw tantrums in public? I know a thing or two about that.
Love, protection and limits. It's the perfect trilogy. Above all things, we desire to manifest the love we feel towards our children, and consequently, we protect them from all harm, even from themselves. However, we sometimes forget to set appropriate limits.
Limits are not only healthy but necessary for the development of our children in family and community environments. Intended to define actions, activities, and prohibited behaviors in any type of environment, limits provide structure for the way in which children grow and develop. Who has never experienced the moment in the supermarket when your child wants something like a candy bar full of sugar and artificial coloring? When we say no, he or she starts crying, screaming and kicking on the floor. On top of that, we can see and feel the prying eyes of people around us, and we also start to feel bad about ourselves. This is what I like to call the "Triple Sorrow" (1) seeing your child "suffer", (2) feeling the prying eyes of others judging us and (3) doubting our ability to do what is right for our children.
My advice is to not let any of these three types of sorrows take over. How? Put yourself in the shoes of your child. To express his or her wants, crying is the main way to communicate a negative emotion without many words, which may not be accessible in your child’s vocabulary. Children experience new emotions every day and may not have all the tools to process the complexities of these experiences. Remember that children learn from everything we do. The more compassion we provide them in difficult moments, the more compassion they will have for others and for themselves. Give them time to process their emotions. This will help them grow into an independent, mentally and emotionally healthy adolescent and young adult.
The second step is to omit the prying eyes of judgmental observers. Young children will express their feelings in public or private places. So I've learned to smile, breathe deeply and not let stress affect me. On several occasions, I have said to people looking at us: "We all have our days. Who has not gotten up on the wrong side of the bed?", or "My child is crying because the potatoes are more expensive here." It is very important to safeguard the physical integrity of our children, and it is also imperative that we protect all things and people around the child during and after a tantrum.
The third and final step is one of the most important: we must understand, internalize and truly believe that we are all doing the best we can at this specific moment to meet the needs of our children and help them grow in community, as loved, independent and emotionally capable human beings, ready to handle what life brings them. If yesterday you did not know what to do when your child throw a tantrum, do not self-punish. That was yesterday. Today, you have to seek the available resources to learn. Tomorrow, you will be better prepared.
It may take a few attempts to put into practice the steps, but do not be discouraged. Nobody was born walking. We all start from scratch, and we move forward as we learn. You are on the right track: Get informed, prepare and live life in the present moment.