Somebody asked me a while back to write an post about how to handle toddler tantrums.

I thought about it.  I asked my husband.  We came to the conclusion that our kids didn't really throw tantrums.


Of course, I went to the grocery story recently with my sweet Crazy Girl in tow and she saw as we loaded our groceries all that "stuff" at the checkout.

You know the stuff.

The stuff that makes you wonder if the people in the grocery story actually WANT your kids to scream at you in the checkout line so that they can:
A)Complain about people with out of control kids and
B)Get you to buy something you don't want when you already have your money ready.  
So, she starts screaming for gum and candy.  Well, I can tell you right now that in my town that is not how you get gum or candy.  So I told her no.  She screamed.  Then she screamed louder.

Then I got down on my knee while they checked my groceries and everybody stared at me with my three little princess girls and I said to her, "You can scream if you want.  But screaming is not going to get you gum.  It is just going to get you in trouble.  But really, FEEL FREE if it works for you."

(As you can see, I am not just sarcastic online, it is a lifestyle choice.)

She did eventually calm down, but by then, we were in the car.  I walked out in rock star glory being followed by my screaming fans.  Ahhhhhh......THIS is the life!   

The truth about tantrums in my home is this:

~Not all kids throw them, at least not in public.  My oldest child has never thrown a tantrum in public.  He doesn't like to cry in front of people.  He does and always has behaved when other people are around.  That is just his personality.  I think he finds it embarrassing.   All I can say about that is "SCORE!"  Very nice to luck out there.

~Some kids DO throw tantrums.  My second realized that if she screamed she would get taken out of church pretty quick.  And, as a two year old, getting taken out of church to run in the hall is super fun, way more fun than praying and hymns.  (Making the hall less fun helps curb this.)  My current Crazy Girl is a walking tantrum.  Anything can set her off.

~Even better, some kids STILL throw tantrums even if they have good parents!  At least I desperately hope this is the case.  

~Why do they throw tantrums?  I don't know if there is one answer for this.  Sometimes they seem to do it because they simply want their way and don't like being told no.  Sometimes a tantrum is a result of being overtired or overstimulated or just stressed with kid stuff.

~How do you deal with tantrums?  For me, I think this really varies some depending on what the trigger is.  I choose to really try NOT to give them something (like candy in a store) just because they are screaming for it.  I would much prefer they learn to ask nicely and then accept the "no" answer every once in a while.  I love my kids and often give them things that they like, I figure hearing "no" sometimes isn't going to damage them. 

But sometimes if the screeching/crying begins and I know that they are just overtired and disappointed, then a hug works much better.  I don't consider that a reward for bad behavior, but comfort for a child that needs it. 

I even hear that some kids can get distracted and move on to something else.  I don't have a kid like that so I can't comment.  Sounds nice though. 
The really lame thing about books and experts is that they aren't right there all the time and they don't know your child like you do. 

The really awesome thing about the mother is that you do KNOW your kid.  You know if they are just trying to be manipulative - and I can admit that sometimes a child will screech because they KNOW darn well that you don't enjoy being publicly humiliated.  You also know if they are late for their nap and they lost their special blanket but you HAD to get groceries and right now is your ONLY chance.

For me personally, I don't really think it is ever a good idea to hand a kid a candy bar they want just to shut them up, even if they are tired.  I was a waitress long enough to know that those kids grow into adults who think that bad behavior works well to get them what they want, and I am not interested in having my children grow up to become tantrum throwing adults. 

And you know what- tantrums don't last forever if you don't reward them.  My husband and I were in all seriousness thinking that our kids didn't throw tantrums.  Of course they had, but we forgot about it.  That time in life- the two or three year old "testing the waters" time doesn't last forever.

You will one day be able to go to the grocery store without screams and meltdowns and stares from disappointed or commiserating strangers.  You will figure it out!  And being stared at is not going to kill you!  Just feel special- you deserve it.  (I remember when men looked at me because I was cute, now they look at me and remember to use protection so they don't end up like that.  That's life.)

The toddler tantrum era will pass.  But it hasn't for me yet.  So please, ignore the woman with the all the kids!


momto5 said…
lol. i know probably my kids have melted down, but it isn't often so i don't really recall it.
although TODAY i feel like having a tantrum... does that count. lol
A rule I keep hearing about kids behavior is that the most important thing you can do is model correct behavior. If you wouldn't want your kid to say it to you, don't say it to your kid. Model the behavior that you would hope for you child if they were being screamed at or someone was trying to manipulate them. To me, that's telling them that 1. you understand that it's frustrating when you don't get what you want, 2. that what they're doing is unkind/disrespectful/hurtful/rude etc., 3. that it isn't going to get them what they want, and 4. ask them to please stop. Maybe it doesn't stop them from crying (very young children are not well-known for their impulse control and receptiveness to logical persuasion), but they will know that you care about their feelings, but that you don't like being treated that way any more than they do.
Unknown said…
I use the same "Have a good time screaming..." sarcasm on my Crazy Girl all the time. She tells me that yelling does in fact make her feel better about things not going her way, who knew?

Today I dared pass her her backpack when we got out of the car, what kind of a person would do a thing like that! So I just put it back on the seat and let her pick it up and put it on her own back. why bother trying to argue it sometimes?
Amie said…
when my kids are trowing a fit I usually say something like "if you are angry and just need to scream go and do it in your bedroom" when they "have their self control" they can come back and join the family or talk about what is the matter. This has even started to work with the 2 yo a little because she sees her sister go off the deep end and run to her room. I also try to reflect feelings and get them to make a distinction between "mad" and "sad".