Friday, April 06, 2007

It Takes Two to Tantrum

(Photo: 3/27/07 - Hazel 2yrs old, Ginger 9wks old)

Hazel turned two last week. And something changed. We had a massive public tantrum two days after her birthday - I'm still too traumatized to discuss the details but the point is that she's TWO! I've read enough child development books to understand the physical and cognitive issues behind tantrums, but I was still caught totally unprepared to handle one. I felt confused and totally helpless, with added frustration and embarrassment of strangers and friends watching. As she lay prostrate on the ground kicking, crying and screaming, HELPLESS was my main feeling - helpless to make her feel better, helpless to fix the situation, helpless to communicate with her, helpless to stop the scene. Anger ran a close second - angry at the people watching, angry at myself for not knowing what to do, angry at Hazel for being "so unreasonable"! And then angry at myself for being angry at her when I understood it was all she could do to express her own frustration.

We just high-tailed it out of the situation as soon as we could, sat outside to recover for awhile, then came home. Put on a show for her (what else? Dora...) and called my Mom to help me recover. Took me all day to recover, really. I also ordered several books on toddlers and tantrums and a brilliant children's book called The Chocolate-Covered-Cookie Tantrum. I don't want to stifle or shame her when she has overwhelming emotions, but I do want to get better at 1) seeing them coming, 2) understanding what's going on behind the tantrum, 3) minimizing feeling embarrassed in public so I can focus on my daughter, and 4) helping her work through them. My mom said this is great practice for the teenage years and she's not the only one. Experts say they're very similar. Don't I know it - I don't remember being two but I distinctly remember having such extreme emotions as a teenager I often didn't know what to do with them - too old to tantrum but lacking any other effective outlet I spent a lot of time crying. Maybe I can help my daughters have a little better time of it...starting now.

6 comments:

dave said...

Welcome to your blog! We had massive concurrent anger explosions today - I think Michelle told you about it. Still working on knowing exactly how to handle it all.

I said...

Love the title of this installment. No kidding, though... freakin' two year olds! Maybe try identify super-desirable "carrots" to employ as a distraction during the tantrum. When my kid starts to implode, if I offer to let him watch some Futurama on my cell phone: problem solved. (That's probably not the ideal way to handle the situation... but it stops the crying, anyway...)

tona said...

love the blog, Kari! Tantrums are sure a challenge. They point to good things -- independence of thought, agency, determination -- but in the midst of it, they're horrible. Try to focus more on her and you than on anyone who might be watching. You'll likely never see them again, and anyway, if they're parents, they totally know what you're going through. Totally.

Shells said...

Tantrums, so hard. We spent a lot of time in the off tantrum hours working on communication skills. How to ask us for help, etc. We also took a cue from Maren and tried to prep Hilde in advance for anything that we thought might trigger a tantrum. It didn't always work, but at least we felt like we were trying to do something.

Kari (Disco Mom) said...

I love everyone's input - all great ideas and ones I have or will try to implement. Unfortunately my cell phone isn't fancy like Isaac's and doesn't play pop culture cartoons. I can often persuade with m&m's and I try to keep the snack size ones in the car or bag. And having worked in special education I am trained to explain and prepare kids for what is coming next, so I do try to always tell Hazel where we're going or what to expect. But of course you just can't always know yourself, or know what will set her off when you're doing something new. Thanks for the blog support, keep the comments coming!

Maren said...

Sorry I'm late on the discussion here. You're right in saying that you can only be so prepared. You can have a bag of tricks and tell your kid everything about what's going to happen and still have a total meltdown. My strategies change from timr to time depending on the child, the age, the situation, and my level of patience. My advice is to read all the books you can, secretly stare at other parents to see how they handle it, then do the best you can and cut yourself some slack for the times you're not able to control your child's behavior!

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