I was out mall-walking with my 15-month old when I saw (and heard) a super upset toddler and a harassed momma. Instantly, I felt grateful that it’s not my own child. The scene was toddler throwing herself on the floor, kicking, screaming, arms flailing, completely unaware of what’s happening around her. Momma, in turn, was truly patient as she un-hinged the child from mall floor and balanced her oversized tote bag.
How I admire that momma! I have been lucky until now for not being caught in her situation, but my toddler is also showing signs of tantrum-ness. He stays home with his grandparents while me & husband go out for work. Even though I come back in time to take my boi out for his evening walk, there have been times when if he doesn’t get what he’s fishing for or rejects the alternatives offered, then he switches on to a more ballistic mode. Till now, I have been able to contain him, coax him and cajole him out of a showdown. But I couldn’t hide my head in the sand for long.
More than the whole toddler meltdown situation, it is Me who I fear the most. What am I talking about? I am NOT a calm person. Nor am I a patient human being. Thus, I turned to find reason & rationale in books & parenting blogs. Empowering Parents website made most sense with this statement.
Understand that when you need something from your children, you become vulnerable to them because they don’t have to give it to you. That’s when you begin to feel overwhelmed and powerless, because you’ve handed that power to your kids. Your anxiety goes way up, and you feel out of control, so you try to gain control over your kids. And as your anxiety increases, so does your reactivity. You react to your anxiety by yelling, hovering, controlling, ignoring, giving in, criticizing, and blaming. You try to control your child—and in his own way, he’ll fight back.
The logic just fell into place in my head. Anxiety breeds reactivity and calm breeds calm. Yet practical life remains a little less-than-perfect.
I have to teach myself (very early days for me) to look at a ‘tantrum-like’ situation from the eyes of my boi. We all know kids don’t always behave as we’d like when we’re out and about but it is hardest to ‘look & feel calm’ when boi decides to threaten mommy with a meltdown in front of an audience! An audience that is ready to judge me as bad parent. It doesn’t matter whether it’s grandparents writing me off as Permissive and Clueless or supermarket cashiers judging me as Yelling and Mean.
In my 15-months as a mother, I’m still coming to terms with the fact that I can only change how to react to my child, but can’t really change him. If he’s an active boi who will not nap for over 1 hour, there’s little I can do. Or the fact that he loves to be outdoors and will be by the door in a jiffy if he sees someone stepping out of the house. Leave him behind and the tear works begin.
Most children, experts claim, grow out of the need for tantrums when they have more language and understanding. But the way you deal with them in the toddler years is important. If they are handled harshly, with responses like yelling and smacking, or if you constantly ignore their feelings and need for comfort, they may well become worse and carry on for longer.
I have begun to use calming techniques to lower my mommy stress levels – deep breathing, relaxing my muscles, positive talk inside my head: ‘I will keep calm, he’s my little one’. Once done, I approach my boi for a comfort hug.
PS: I’m also totally inspired by Cool, Calm Parent: How not to lose it with your kids by Hollie Smith. The book had some handy case studies of kids-parents which were pretty relatable. I am also beginning A Calm Brain: Unlocking Your Natural Relaxation System by Dr. Gayatri Devi