If your child turns out to be in the latter camp, then brace yourself. Able to walk but not usually talk, and with their sense of self developing daily, frustrated two – and sometimes three and four – year olds, are prone to expressing themselves the only way they know how: through tears and tantrums.
The important thing to remember is that this is just a stage. And that your child’s behavior doesn’t make you a bad parent. Indeed, a lighter approach during this period is sometimes the best way to go. It’ll ease your stress levels and those of your little one, too. Just ask these battle-hardened moms…
Survival tip #1: Leave them be
“My youngest daughter used to have EPIC meltdowns at playgrounds,” says Carol, mom to Sally, 13, Jenny, 10 and Nonnie, 6. “We quickly realized that there was no way of heading it off – she just needed to let off steam. She was at one with my husband and our two eldest daughters once, and she properly hurled herself on the floor because she didn’t like the way he’d peeled her banana. Used to this by this point, our older girls went off to play and my husband carried on reading the paper, ignoring all the horrified looks. In the end, a lady tapped him on the shoulder and asked him, ‘Do you think you should check if your daughter is okay?’ He politely said, ‘No, but be my guest!’ Her face was a picture.”
Survival tip #2: Distraction, distraction, distraction!
“I read somewhere that getting down to a child’s height and looking them in the eyes when you’re talking to them can stop or ward off a tantrum,” says Katie, mom to Charlie, 3. “I tried it once, got a flailing foot in my face and never tried it again. Distraction techniques work well for me. I bring out a toy she hasn’t seen in a while or put on her favorite song, all while trying not to giggle. She can be a proper diva when she’s cross.”
Survival tip #3: Sleep, snacks and deep breaths
“Whatever you do, don’t cut out the naps and always have snacks with you,” says Marie, mom to Emily, 2. “Hunger and tiredness make the tantrums much, much worse. We were in a supermarket once when Emily was both hungry and tired. She rolled around on the floor screaming for five minutes because I wouldn’t buy her a chocolate bar. A lady came over, squeezed my hand and said, ‘Count to 10 and breathe.’ I’ve done that ever since – it really helps me to keep my cool. Thank you, mysterious stranger.”
Survival tip #4: It’s okay to laugh
“This is going to sound like a made-up story, but I promise it’s true. My very curious two-year-old got a plastic child’s toilet seat stuck over his head and then threw the world’s most enormous hissy fit because he couldn’t get it off,” says Meenal, mom to Ang, 2. “I was laughing so hard tears were running down my cheeks. We eventually got him out with the help of some baby oil. He was not amused.”
For more information about toddler tantrums, why they happen and how you can deal with them, check out our Deep Breath article.