I Am Toddler, Hear Me Roar

tantrumSometimes, one or both of my boys have a rough day. Today seemed unusually difficult for Blake, and to make matters worse, whenever I tried to help him through an upset, disappointment, or other situation, he seemed to just get more upset. One time, he even got so worked up that he nearly made himself sick.

When one of the boys has a rough day, I feel bad for both of them. Of course, whomever is freaking out must be attended to, and if there are only small amounts of time in between freak outs, the other guy gets only snippets of undivided attention and a whole lot of “just a minute dear” and “I’ll help you as soon as I can”. I wish that I could pinpoint a cause for all of the freaking and tweaking that was going on here today, because then I might have a clue what to do about all of it.

Of course, I suspect that the “cause” of all of the tantrums is something that has no easy “fix”. Blake is simply acting like a 17 month old, albeit more intensely than some 17 month olds do. I have been down this road before with Dylan. His toddler tantrums were pretty intense, and I kept wondering whether there was something that I was doing wrong. I learned something that was comforting, and I reminded myself of it when Blake started to have intense tantrums. That something is that highly sensitive children who feel their feelings deeply often have intense tantrums. They also have smiles that light up the room and draw people to them, and giggles that could melt an iceberg. They experience both positive and negative feelings intensely, and it’s just a part of who they are. Also, around this time in a toddler’s development, the desire to communicate is often greater then the ability to do so, and likewise for the desire to do physical things. The immense frustration of wanting to communicate or do something physically and not being able to do so is no doubt behind many a meltdown.

Since tantrums occur more frequently when a toddler is tired, bored, hungry, or frustrated, I can do my best to make sure that Blake’s needs are met in those areas as often as possible. While that will avert some tantrums, it won’t prevent them all. When a tantrum happens, all that I can do is try my best to remain warm and empathetic. This sometimes helps to bring it to an end. I have heard that offering a substitute toy or activity as a form of redirecting a toddler can work, but in Blake’s case it often makes him more upset. He usually throws it across the room. Still, I do offer it, just as a gesture of kindness and good will. As a last resort, if I find that I am becoming frustrated and in danger of losing my temper and yelling, I make sure that he is safe and then leave the room for a minute after telling him that I am available if he needs me. This, too, shall pass.

Photo by kakisky on morguefile.com.