Posts Tagged ‘tantrums’

Parenting a Spirited Toddler

Friday, June 10th, 2016

spirited toddlerI clearly remember my older daughter’s first tantrum.  We were at the Children’s Museum and an older kid refused to share a toy with L.  Cue kicking, screaming, and crying.  The tantrum continued as I carried her out of the museum and for most of the drive home.  Weren’t they supposed to wait until 2 to start tantruming?  L was only 17 months, and while she always was a high-needs and difficult baby, this tantrum caught me off guard, and I quickly began to research what I could do. I came across an article by Judy Arnall.  Although it did not provide specific strategies, the article provided a name for my daughter’s personality: the spirited toddler.  Somehow knowing a name for it helped me feel better.

L was the toddler that instead of sitting nicely in my lap, stood in the center of the circle dancing, or went around to others and visited during story time. Diaper changes, getting dressed, and other grooming chores are always a wrestling match (and many times involved crying and screaming).  Although much improved from what it had been, bedtime still involves many tears and at least one or two times awaking up at night needing Mommy.

L also is very empathetic and makes friends easily.  She goes out of her way to play with the shy toddler of the group.  She is very affectionate, surprising you with a hug as she runs to the next thing.  She needs cuddles multiple times a day.  She has a great, although strong, personality and routinely charms strangers at the grocery store.  She has an amazing memory and will tell you about things that happened when she was only a year old.

L feels everything more strongly, good and bad.  It is my job as her mom to help her navigate these strong feelings.  Over the next few months, I learned through research (and a little trial and error) strategies to help L’s day smoother.  Setting specific routines and explicitly teaching the routines using a picture chore chart aided in the grooming struggles.  Five minute countdowns helped with transitions.  Choices sometimes avoided tantrums.  Consistency as well as firm boundaries also help to avoid some tantrums.  When all else fails, riding the tantrum out until she calms down again (sometimes for 45 minutes or longer), talking how to do things next time instead of having a tantrum, and moving on, helps L recover for the remainder of the day.

Parenting L as a spirited toddler takes a little extra patience, but each day is interesting and incredibly rewarding.

Becky Nagel is a stay at home mom to an energetic, spirited toddler and a happy, easy-going baby from Denver, Colorado.  She enjoys running, hiking, and cooking with her two girls.

When Your Baby Discovers Tantrums

Friday, October 2nd, 2015

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.

Communication Frustrations with Toddlers

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

Communication Frustrations with ToddlersIt’s an exciting moment when your child starts to say their first words. For my daughter, it was “momma.” Then “daddy” came along. By her 18 month check-up, however, she wasn’t talking as much as I thought she should be. My pediatrician calmed my fears, and now at 26 months, she talks my ear off. However, there have definitely been some frustrating moments with communication.

Most toddlers babble. I am going to say I will definitely miss the baby babble once it’s gone completely. Words like pink, Teddy, eat, Mimi, and go are now my daughter’s favorite things to throw in between babble. While it is frustrating to try to understand this babble, it is also very frustrating for toddlers when we don’t get it.

Toddlers have a big, new world in front of them. Sadly, many times they become overcome with emotions and frustrations and communicate these feelings in a negative way.

Common Ways Toddlers Show Frustration

Crying: This one seems simple enough, but many toddlers simply cry when they cannot express what they need or want to an adult. It’s important to “tolerate the tears.” Let your child express themselves and get out the tears. Then, find a way to comfort them.  Cuddle, nurse, or simply curl up on the couch together and read a book that makes them happy. Have a few toys close by that make them happy and use the moment to talk about the toys.

Hitting and Biting: This is a tough one for me to write about. My sweet girl has had her issues with hitting. Most often, toddlers hit when they can’t express what they need or want. Hands are communication tools for toddlers. It’s important to show your toddler how to express themselves without using aggression. Hands Are Not For Hitting is a fun board book my daughter loves. It teaches a great lesson, too!

Sometimes they simply need your attention. Respond with a soft voice, and show them how to touch gently. Many toddlers also go through a biting phase. Remember your child is trying to communicate something to you. Use this as a teachable moment. Responding with patience is not easy.

I think it’s important to remember that toddlers are little sponges. They are learning how to communicate with adults in a big, new world. They may become frustrated and angry while trying to communicate, but it is our job as moms to help them grow, learn, and understand their emotions.

I definitely have days where I don’t understand everything my daughter is trying to tell me. For example, she says “play” and “potty” almost exactly the same. I often upset her by asking her to go potty when she simply wants to play with her dollhouse.  But, I’m learning that we both communicate better when mommy isn’t frustrated and she’s free to use her own precious little voice. Sweetest sound ever.

Karyn Meyerhoff is a mom of 2 in Northeast Indiana. She is learning new things every day from her kiddos.


You Might be the Parent of a Toddler if…

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014
  1. You might be the parent of a toddler if...You’ve ever hidden somewhere in your house to eat something just so you didn’t have to share it.
  2. You’ve ever used a parenting problem-solving strategy on your spouse.
  3. You’ve ever thought that pretty much ANYONE else could do a better job with children than you.
  4. You’ve ever backed silently out of a room when you discovered your toddler was happily playing alone.
  5. Your friends/family have ever been surprised to see your toddler clothed.
  6. You have strong feelings about Daylight Savings Time.
  7. You always have wipes. Always.
  8. You’ve ever excused yourself from a group of adults by announcing you had to go potty.
  9. You consider it a huge victory to leave the house with your toddler in clothing that is situationally and seasonally appropriate.
  10. One word always makes you smile: Bedtime!

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mother of three whose toddlers have made her an expert at laughing when she could be crying.  

Taming Tantrums

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

011Your child’s first birthday has just passed, and you just love all of the smiles and giggles you get from them. All of a sudden, your child starts showing that they have an opinion, in this a voice–a very loud voice. Tantrums begin.

I can remember the moment when my daughter had her first tantrum. Walmart. August ’13. Checkout lane 14. I was so confused. I thought tantrums started at the “terrible twos.” No one told me that a 1-year-old was capable of such drama.

What to Expect at This Age

Little ones 12-18 months old mostly just want to please mommy and daddy. However, they are starting to realize that sometimes you are pleased with their behavior and choices, and other times you are not. Cue meltdowns. Little ones at this age have a wide range of emotions, and they are still too small to understand to express them. Ever been hit, bit, or publicly shamed by your little one? It’s normal. This was not easy for me to accept. I viewed my daughter as an angel. She couldn’t possibly hit her mommy. Then, one day, when mommy didn’t give into what she wanted, she hit me.

The good news is that this too shall pass. As children grow older, they gain the interpersonal skills they need to deal with the little challenges of everyday life—delay of gratification, negotiating, impulse control, communication, and the ability to self-soothe. Tantrums are not done on purpose. They are the only way your child can express themselves when they lack the skills necessary to say what’s wrong.

Practical Tips on Taming Tantrums:

  • Remember your child is trying to tell you something. When little ones can’t express themselves verbally, they act out. Sometimes just acknowledging out loud that they are angry or sad or ready to go can be helpful.
  • Sometimes you just have to ignore the behavior. Crying in Target because mommy won’t buy a certain toy? Ignore. Don’t give into the need for attention. Let your little one know that this is not how you get rewarded.
  • Distract, distract, distract! It’s amazing how easily you can change their focus. Find a new toy. Pick a safer place to play. Cry with them. Make them laugh!
  • Give them a say. Give them some choices and include them in your activity.
  • Reward good behavior. When your child is acting appropriately, praise them. Let them see how much fun it is to make good choices.
  • Keep them safe. Grab their hand while walking. Stop physical behaviors like hitting and biting and have zero tolerance for dangerous behavior towards others. Show them how to touch gently.

And now, the real stuff…


  • Don’t make eye contact with strangers during a tantrum—just focus on your child. Retreat if necessary. Chances are you won’t bump into that lady in Walmart ever again, so who cares if she disapproves of your child’s behavior or how you are handling it?
  • It’s okay to just leave if you want. Take your child to the car and leave that shopping cart full of groceries. Moms do it all the time. Kroger will understand.
  • Don’t laugh at your child’s behavior. Just remember that you are supermom. Your cape may have a few snags and wrinkles in it today, but tomorrow is a fresh start.
  • Stop at Starbucks on the way home or your favorite drive-thru for a treat if you need it. It’s okay to take a mommy break. Baristas understand.

Remember moms, you can tame those tantrums! They’re a normal part of growing up, and our kiddos need us to guide them in the right direction.

What’s worked for you?

Karyn Meyerhoff is a mom of a 23 month old and a brand-new baby boy. She is still figuring it all out and often eats a cookie or two during naptime.