Coping with toddler tantrums
‘No chocolate before lunch!’. 2 minutes of crying out in protest.
‘Have a little gravy with your rice, it looks so dry!’. 5 minutes of screaming and howling.
‘Why don’t you wear this blue dress instead of this pink one you’re always wearing?!’ All hell breaks loose.
Sound familiar? Or worse. Does this sound unfamiliar to you? Well then prepare yourself for the terrible twos, the tyrannical threes and if you’re unlucky, the frightful fours. Nobody told me about this phase. Nothing could have prepared me for it. Toddler tantrums are not a cliche. They’re as real and inevitable as taxes. And here’s the cherry on the top. God help you if you’re a single parent.
Dealing with a toddler throwing tantrums is one of the most challenging phases of being a single parent. I kid you not. It drains every ounce of your energy and makes you want to smash your head against a wall, to put it across mildly. From experience, I think what makes it difficult is because they’re at an age when they can’t fully understand reason or logic coupled with their inability to communicate how they feel. It could be because they want or don’t want something, or just need your attention. So screaming, stomping their feet and rolling on the ground is what comes naturally to them.
After speaking to a few trusted friends in a similar personal situation in life and doing my own research, I came to the following conclusions:
- A lot of children throw tantrums, it has nothing to do with being a single parent.
- It’s a phase, it will pass. There’s no point killing yourself about it. After all, you’re all that they’ve got. So you have to take care of yourself if you want to be able to take care of them.
Easier said than done, right? Not really. Here are a few tips that have worked for me when my little angel decides to throw a hissy fit.
- Do not react immediately. Give them a few minutes to calm down on their own. If they see that their tantrums aren’t having an effect, they will stop.
- If the tantrum extends for slightly longer periods of time, ignore. I end up doing this most of the time. I walk away, and let her scream and cry it out, while I continue to do what I was doing, or something else.
- I have found that ignoring helps me immensely. The more I stay in the same vicinity as her when she’s a little monster, the more I stress and tire myself out. Take care of yourself. It’s more important that you are alive and healthy for them in the long run.
- If the tantrum continues, I step in just once, and try to tell my daughter to calm down and point out why she should stop. If she doesn’t listen, I walk away again.
- When they’re younger, distraction helps. Give them a choice, they like feeling that they are allowed to choose.
- Physical punishment never worked for me, it just consumes your energy and leaves you feeling guilty. Although a pinch or a light slap on the wrist now and then doesn’t cause much harm. But nothing more.
- Once the nightmare is over, make peace with them. Give them a hug and try explaining things to them or apologise for losing your cool if you did.
As a single parent, parenting is not just about disciplining your child, it’s paramount to make sure they understand that you love them no matter what. When I was worried and anxious about my daughter’s daily tantrums, a trusted friend from the Phoenix family advised me to spend more time with her. Although I spend the whole day working so that I can give her a good life, it would cause more damage if I didn’t spend time with her doing little things that showed her I was interested in her activities. It could be anywhere from 15 minutes to 1 hour. Nowadays, I spend time drawing and colouring with her. Or blowing bubbles. Sometimes, it’s singing together or tickling her or giving her piggy back rides around the house, depending on my energy levels at the end of the day. And all through the day, I make a conscious effort to tell her I love her. And the rewards of that are immeasurable.
I’d be lying if I said the tantrums have reduced. Yes, she still throws fits for the silliest of things. But what’s important is that learning to deal with them, hasn’t left a bad taste in my mouth. I want to remember her childhood as a time I enjoyed watching her grow and enjoying each other’s company. You will never get this time back so brush aside the tantrums, and cherish this phase of their childhood as much as you can 🙂