When Your Baby Discovers Tantrums

When Your Baby Discovers TantrumsWhen I heard the fusses I thought my 2-year-old was the one who threw the toy across the room before throwing himself down on the ground in a fit of screams, but no. That would be my barely one-year-old over there, around the corner, in a full tantrum. My forehead fell into my palm as I quickly filtered through all the parenting information I acquired through my life, especially these last three years. I got nothing. Tantrums weren’t supposed to happen yet! If you can’t reason with a two-year-old, what on earth was I to do with this temporarily unreasonable heap of a barely-toddling toddler?

I took a deep breath and essentially applied the same guidelines I do on our two-year-old. I checked for anything unsafe, like more things he could throw and moved them out of the way. I essentially left him to his own irreconcilable devices for the minute it took him to calm down some. I held him for a moment and quickly reiterated “no throw.” I next consulted Dr. Google and was happy (yet sad…) to learn that I am not alone in the one-year-old tantrum. Then I assessed my part in it all.

Call him creative, persistent, or sensitive and strong…ok. I suppose I’m glad to know I’m raising a well-rounded boy. There are some aspects of growing and living in this world that you can’t prevent. Often I find there are things I can do to help or hinder his ability to cope with the world. Let me be clear: I need not do the coping for him. That’s a life-long lesson we all struggle with. I can help or hinder his experience of unnecessary difficulties at an age where he is limited in his ability to cope.

For example, he lacks many language abilities that are at the root of many tantrums. I can’t magically provide the ability to articulate his needs at one year old, but I can sense his non-verbal and verbal cues, like stiffened arms, grunting, and jerking his head to the side as he often does when showing his disdain. There are also the common triggers of being overtired, hungry, overstimulated, under-stimulated, frustration, or anxiety due to changes in routine or other circumstances.

As he has a slightly older brother, they often have common interests but very different abilities. While they both love blocks, our younger guy throws his hands up (and blocks across the room) when unable to build a tower like his brother. We play with him and assist him as he learns to play with blocks at his age-appropriate development.

We also still use language even if he can’t. We use words and then act out the behavior. I deeply believe in the value of a deep breath even at this young age. We’ll use the words “deep breath” and then exhibit the behavior to demonstrate. After a handful of times gently encouraging this, I’ve found both of our children will take that breath without my encouragement (though they sometimes still need the gentle reminder). Last, I’ve found the great use of the just-right silly song, tickle, or distraction of a new toy or thing to bring fresh perspective to his eyes.

Sometimes, just sometimes!, I also need to offer myself the distraction for a fresh perspective. I find tantrums are more likely to occur on days when I have a long to-do list with many distractions. I can’t fully eliminate the possibility that sometimes tantrums happen because of the expectations I place on my child, and often my busy days have higher expectations mixed with a dose of lower patience on my part. We’re all a work-in-progress. Coping, a lifelong struggle indeed.

Lynette Moran shares her life with her husband and two sons, ages 2 and 3 years. She has cloth diapered both since birth and enjoys all things eco-friendly and mindful living.

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