Toddler tantrums are things of myth. All your 1, 2, and 3 year olds may have tantrums and meltdown from time to time, here’s how to respond.
The first time my oldest ever threw a tantrum was when we had company over. For Thanksgiving dinner. It was short-lived and all was well by the time the turkey came out, but it was a good initiation into the toddler years.
Instead of realizing that tantrums are developmentally normal and responding calmly and with intention, we mothers often go into panic mode. We attempt anything and everything to make them stop. .
We see a tantrum and think that we – obviously – are doing something very wrong in our parenting.
Reasons some toddler tantrums are a sign you’re doing something right
I don’t buy it. Sure tantrums aren’t fun and nobody likes to witness a screaming child throw down in Wal-Mart.
But it isn’t the tantrum that matters nearly as much as our response to the tantrum. Here are four ways I think tantrums are actually a good thing.
1. Crying and meltdowns often mean you’ve set a boundary
If your child never fusses, argues or fights your decisions it means you are giving in to their every desire. In other words, you’re being too easy if your toddler never throws a tantrum.
No you can’t run across the road without me.
No, in fact, it’s not good to eat 3 brownies right before dinner.
I’m truly sorry, but going to church naked is just not okay.
The fact that your child is throwing a tantrum can often mean you’ve put a boundary in place and are sticking to it. That’s a good sign. Do we want to deprive our children and say no all the time? Of course not.
The goal is never to say no for no’s sake. But on occasion we must risk making our children angry because we know what’s best for them.
2. It may mean toddlers are testing the boundaries
Children will push the envelope and test your resolve. It isn’t that they just want to know what you’re made of, but they want to know if you mean what you say. They want to know if they can believe you and trust you. Why?
Because if you carry through on your “no” you’ll carry through with your “yes.”
There is great comfort in being in relationship with a person who is transparent and full of integrity. Their yes’s are yes and their no’s are no. Kids feel safe within boundaries.
The boundary phenomenon in school aged kids
I read a book recently that told an interesting story of a playground with a fence. When the fence was up the children would hover around the perimeter in groups talking and playing.
The administrators decided to remove the fence so the kids would feel more free, and do you know what happened? The playground shrank as a result. They did not venture out nearly as far as they had when there was a boundary present.
They weren’t sure how close they could get to the road or not, so they stayed nearer to the building. It may seem counterintuitive, but boundaries are freeing.
3. It gives opportunity to train your children how to handle their emotions
I am a big proponent of training our children how to release their emotion in healthy ways. There’s no better time than a tantrum (or the lead up to a tantrum) to help our kids learn how to channel their frustrations.
While I certainly don’t think our kids need to be given free rein to lose it and make the rest of us suffer, it’s paramount that our reactions train our children not to stifle their emotions. I talk all about that in these posts below.
- What is an emotional basement, and why should mine be empty?
- Preventing Toddler Tantrums + Meltdowns
- Can I require a good attitude without stifling my children’s emotions?
4. It gives opportunity to show love after conflict
While discipline and boundaries are important, they should always be done over a foundation of love. We love our children because they are our children, not because of their behavior.
Their position as a member of our family makes them worthy of our love and respect, regardless of whether they’ve thrown my cell phone into the toilet, and proceeded to throw a tantrum because they lost TV privileges.
If you set a boundary and they respond with an angry emotional outburst, when the dust is cleared you’re all set up for a demonstration of your love.
After the toddler meltdowns, you can do this…
Now, I’m not saying you’re going to love your toddler’s tantrums, but you may end up loving this part!
When the consequence or tantrum is over, they are still your beloved child. Hugs, kisses, conversation and life can go on as normal. There’s no need to drag it out, give the silent treatment or cause them to live in fear of punishment in some misguided effort to scare them into obedience.
When kids know your love is a sure thing, they are less motivated to use negative attention seeking behaviors to get a little attention.
So… next time you witness some killer toddler tantrums because you held up a boundary you can smile. You can smile knowing:
- you are doing your job;
- they will thank you for it later;
- they are not emotionally repressed;
- and you can give endless comfort cuddles!