Tantrums are commonly associated with toddlers, and for good reason. It all makes sense, if you consider what is going on as a child transitions from being an infant to being a toddler. Infants almost always get what they ask for, because the things that they request (with cries and other cues) are usually things like food, drink, sleep, and cuddles, which parents are happy to provide. When a child becomes a toddler, they begin to ask for more and more things, including things that they can not have or are not permitted to do because they are dangerous, inappropriate, or otherwise just not an option. This creates immense frustration for the toddler, and toddlers, especially very young ones, have a very limited vocabulary that they can use to express that frustration. The result? You guessed it, the frustration does not get expressed with words, the toddler has a tantrum instead.
I have been thinking about tantrums for the past week or so. Blake, my fourteen month old, is beginning to master the art of the tantrum, and at a much earlier age than I thought that I would be dealing with that. Perhaps I don’t remember when Dylan started to have tantrums, or perhaps Blake is starting to have them relatively early on because he has an older sibling to observe and emulate. Whatever the cause, at least a couple of times a day, Blake gets very upset.
In the past, when Blake was unhappy, he would simply cry. For example, when he was learning to walk, he would get frustrated when he would trip and fall, and then he would cry. Now, he does not trip as much, but when it is time to come inside, whether we have been outside for three minutes or three hours, I know that I’m in for it. Of course, I tell him in advance that we will be going inside, just in case he wants to make his way over to the door. That usually does not happen, so I gently pick him up to bring him indoors. When I try to pick him up, he sometimes makes his body go limp so that it is almost impossible to pick him up, all the while screaming and crying. Other times, he waits to get upset until I am already holding him. He screams and cries, and then throws his weight around in an attempt to get me to drop him. It is a lucky thing that I have not, as he is very strong for someone so small.
When Blake gets upset, I hold him close and speak to him calmly. Of course I am a little rattled by such powerful emotions coming from someone so small, but in the moment I have to put that feeling aside and be there for him. I am thankful that at least for now, Blake is fairly easy to console. I know all too well that there may come a time when the tantrums get even bigger and longer, and much more effort will be required to help him get through them. After all, he does have an older brother whom he works very hard to emulate.