I think it’s time to have a little parenting discussion, because I am in the throws of some major 3’s. Do you have a threenager(thanks for the completely appropriate term Lauren!!)??? I do. And she’s sweet and hilarious and a literal light in our family, but she’s also slightly insane. And emotional. And irrational. And my boys were never so sensitive. I’ve had fit thrower’s before her, but the fit usually had some origin. Lila on the other hand can fly off the handle for no reason whatsoever. For instance, this past Christmas Eve was spent getting this little bit off to bed when she thought she could refuse this daily and mandatory activity. Fun times. Or not. Because it ruined our Christmas Eve. And we went to bed fuming mad. On Christmas!!!
So what do you do? When you’re the mom in Target that everyone is staring at because your toddler is having a meltdown over the gum or candy or TOYS they insist on putting at the checkout line, know you are not alone(despite the glares from those around you who have either A. never had kids, B. forgotten what it’s like to raise little humans or C. are just mean and insensitive and lacking the basic human decency to lend a hand or a smile that says hang in there lady, this too shall pass). All moms have either been there or will be there at some point. So, with two kids before this one, I’ve learned a bit about MY response during these meltdowns and how it affects the whole thing. Here are some things I’ve done to limit the crazy or at least not lose my shiz because of it.
If you are at home…walk away.
So. Here is my little spitfire. And no, sticking out the tongue is not an acceptable thing in our house. She was being silly. But about .3 seconds later she was coming unhinged about having to go inside and get ready for church. So, I picked her up and took her inside to her room, and I walked away. No reason for the neighbors to get a front seat showing to Lila’s theatrics. There is no logic or reasoning when a toddler is throwing a fit. I used to think I could send some rational thought the kids way or punish them during said melt down and that would fix it. Wrong. So wrong. So, I wait it out. I usually put Lila in her room until she calms down, I walk away so I calm down, then we talk about it, and then she gets a consequence. She then has to apologize to the entire family or friends or whoever was at the mercy of her screaming that is well above any decibel humans should be able to reach. We talk about why what she did was wrong. But they have to be calm otherwise you’ll be beating your head against the wall…..or punching your way through it. Literally.
If you’re in the car…..take a deep breath and PRAY. Or just laugh. Because face it…you’re stuck there.
I’m trying to convince myself that I’m not a horrible parent for having so many pictures on hand of Lila’s melt downs. But, if it helps you out dear momma, it’s worth it. And surely she won’t remember me snapping these pics right? Until she sees them one day on the internet. Oops.
Back to the car. It’s the place that will put me over the edge. The noise. Big kids fighting over the one in the back kicking the seat of the one in front or over wether or not flushing the toilet in the middle of the night will wake anyone up, and Lila screaming because she wants her window down when it’s 25 degrees out and you holding onto what’s left of your sanity because THERE IS NO ESCAPE. You are stuck in a prison on wheels while also having to keep all these people driving you to the nut house safe. So, you can laugh, zone out, scoot some music up to the front of the car, put in your headphones(I keep a pair in my center console!), or just turn off the music so it doesn’t add to the noise. If you start losing your stuff, it only makes it worse. So, I’ve learned to just be quiet(as long as it’s just a meltdown, if I get talked to in a disrespectful way or if a shoe gets thrown in my direction or heaven forbid she gets all mean and sassy…I’ll pull that car over in a hot second). I’ve pulled the car over to deal with tantrums or to simply get out for a second(I’m not even kidding), but for the most part I wait it out until we get home or to wherever it is we’re going. The more calm you are, the better the situation will be. But seriously,those head phones though. Life savers.
If you’re out in public…..
Buy them ice cream? Kidding. Sort of. But seriously. When you are in a store or the Mall and you don’t want anyone to call CPS on you, you remove the said fit thrower from the situation if you can. Most places have family bathrooms now, or you could always head to your car until it passes or where you can administer some discipline once they’ve calmed down. Or, you can just distract them with ice cream. Mom of the year.
There are times to make the scene bigger because they just need the reminder that you are in charge(like the time I LITERALLY broke a sweat trying to keep Jake in the seat of the cart in Target long enough to strap him in, because I refused to walk out and leave all my stuff and let him win. I needed his butt to sit down and all he wanted to do was stand up. I won, but it made a scene. He calmed down and I got all my groceries and he learned he didn’t always get his way. But I had a few eyes on me). Sometimes they need to know that they can’t get away with stuff just because you aren’t at home. There are also times to distract or re-direct and save the punishment for when you get to the car or home(if they are old enough to grasp that, which at 3 is iffy). Try to keep in mind when you take them places and set them up for success to the best of your ability. Of course, life happens and they have to learn to deal sometimes, but there is also something to be said about managing your time with their age and what’s reasonable for them to handle.
This might mean not stopping at Kroger with a kid who hasn’t eaten or who has been in school all day. Unless they give away free cookies. So plan well.
Clearly, I have more than enough documentation of Lila’s fits. What you don’t know is how bad her older brother was. I mean, he puts her to shame. By the time Lila came along I had done my time. I’d walked out of enough establishments with Jake yelling “help!!!!!” or “please don’t spank me!!!!!” or “noooooooooooo” followed by a flopping fish hand right to my face. And now he’s almost 10 and I’d like to freeze time. And no, he doesn’t throw fits anymore.
I have a little experience with these tantrums and here are a few things I’ve learned..
You can’t talk them down off the ledge. Let them hang out there for a bit, they will usually come down from sheer exhaustion.
You can’t punish DURING a fit. It’s just not practical. Most of the time they are so out of it and on the other side of themselves they won’t even hear you or understand why they are getting punished. Lila is 3 1/2 and well beyond her years in vocabulary and her ability to communicate and understand, so I know she can finish the fit and still have enough wherewithal to understand why she’s now getting in trouble.
You can’t yell too. I mean, you can I guess, but it’s just not effective. Trust me, I’ve tried. Repeatedly. When they throw stuff at you, you just want to throw it right back right? Right. If you’re human anyway. But trust me, it will only make them angrier making the reconciliation and teaching moments afterwards so much harder. It’s one extra step if you are needing to ask forgiveness for your own behavior. It just makes the whole mess even messier. I know from experience. So take a deep breath momma, walk away and take a second to collect yourself. Seriously, the deep breath is a huge help. I know this isn’t yoga, but deeeeeeeep breath from your core and then exhale it all the way out. It’s amazing how much tension it releases. Try it. You can get the point across and be firm while keeping your voice at a reasonable decibel.
Don’t punish them beyond what they are able to handle. So don’t punish them the rest of the day because it made you so mad. Pick a consequence and stick to it. Then move on. I know this from experience. Sometimes I hang onto it and feel as though their punishment should go n for YEARS because they did all the things. Obviously, it upset me way more than it did them. They move on. And so should you.
Show grace. It’s hard. You want to scream right back. Kick them out of the house. With hold all their belongings until they go to college. I always have to remind myself Lila has only been on this earth for 3 1/2 years. It’s not long. I know they can be the sole reason for your hair turning gray, but giving grace goes a long way. Make the moment teachable once they are coherent. Pray with them. Hug them. Let them know they are loved, and it’s because of that love you can’t let them behave that way without a consequence.
Hope that helps you. I’ve had so many questions over the years from first time parents about these hard toddler years and especially the tantrums. No one tells you in the hospital that the adorable, warm, smelling oh so yummy baby you are holding will eventually tell you that you that “you don’t get them” or head but you right in the kisser or pee in a cup in YOUR BRAND NEW SHOWER and leave it for his brother to find. We love them, but they can make the days long sometimes. So, stay calm, get on your knees, walk away when you know you are about to lose your you know what, and make those moments teachable. I’ve had some of the sweetest and most teachable moments with my kids following a melt down. Happy parenting!!
Do you have an unruly toddler? They are all so different right? How do you deal with melt downs??