My eldest is 3 and a half and I can honestly say that we have not experienced ‘the terrible twos’ or ‘the terrible threes’. Yes of course all children have their moments, but we’ve never had regular tantrums. I’m sure part of this is just his nature (we’re super lucky!) but we do have a few tips and tricks that we use to help keep things on an even keel.
Avoid Communication Frustration
When C was young I read that a lot of tantrums are born out of a child’s frustration at not being able to communicate. I had also heard that baby sign was a great way to communicate with non verbal kids so I decided to take a class when C was 5 months old. I have to say that I found the class great fun. C was too young to understand much but he loved all the music and songs. We only ended up teaching him a few signs, as he actually spoke quite young (I do think this was in part because baby sign had taught him two way communication was possible). For months before he could verbalise C could tell us if he wanted milk, water or food, he could also sign for more. Just these few signs made a world of difference, as we knew immediately if he was hungry or thirsty. To be honest at that age, that pretty much covered most of his desires!
Avoid Hangry Moments
As he got older, and we went out and about more, we always packed a variety of snacks. We still do this, last weekend we went to the zoo with both kids and brought a small cool bag packed with fruit, raisins, cheese and crackers. A lot of toddler tantrums can arise because they are simply hungry and turn into hangry little people whose emotions get a bit out of control. By having snacks, we aren’t relying on being near a shop or cafe, so can keep everyone’s blood sugar and temperaments nice and even. It’s also cheaper and usually healthier too!
Repeat Back The Woes
I can’t remember where I first read this, but the advice was to repeat what your toddler has told you so that they understand you know why they are upset. I have to say it works wonders! For example, C was upset the other day that his cereal of choice was all gone and started crying. I said, ‘I know you are really sad, you wanted more of your cereal but it’s all gone’, to which he wailed ‘yes’, next I said ‘I wish we had more so I could give it to you, but you ate it all. Do you think I could take some out of your tummy so you could eat it again?’ and I tickled his belly. This resulted in laughter! The tears were gone as fast as they arrived and we all agreed we should buy some more cereal at the shops, and then he ate some toast. It was that simple. No tantrums. Best parenting advice I think I ever read!
This is another great one for avoiding tantrums. We have a pretty regular routine in the evenings so C knows after dinner he gets to play with his toys a bit, but after that we tidy up, he gets two stories and then its up to bath, followed by bed. There are no surprises, the same thing happens every evening. I find if we don’t follow the usual pattern things get a little hairy, but by sticking to the routine he knows what to expect. So more often than not, it’s all plain sailing.
We also give him advanced warning of events. So if he’s going for a sleepover in my parents for example, we’ll mention it a few times the previous day. Usually the first time we mention it he’ll say he wants to stay at home with us, but we then drop it into the conversation a few more times across the day. By the time it actually happens he’s super excited! There’s so little toddlers have control over in their lives and things happening unexpectedly can really throw them, but by giving some advanced notice they can get used to the idea more gradually, and you can hopefully avoid any tantrums.
In the same vein, we will also let him know 5 minutes before we have to leave somewhere. So if we’re at the playground we’ll tell him we have to go in 5 more minutes and would he like to go on the slide or swings again before we go. It gives him fair warning but also gives him control of how to spend the last few minutes.
We also try to manage expectations with food too! If he’s eating something I’ll tell him when he’s having the last one, so that he’s not surprised at their ‘sudden’ disappearance. To be honest, I ask my husband to do this for me if we’re sharing a bag of sweets and he’s handing them to me, so that I know when I’m eating the last one, so I enjoy it more!
If all else fails and he does just get upset for whatever reason, I’ve found that a big, bear hug and a cuddle on my knee for a few minutes works wonders. Sometimes the world is overwhelming for adults, so it shouldn’t really be surprising that some days toddlers just can’t handle everything that’s thrown at them. A big hug and lots of understanding words can help restore the world to rights again.
I hope you find some of the tips helpful. Let me and other readers know in the comments if you’ve any more tips to add!
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