You're in the grocery store. Your child sees a brightly colored box full of teeth-rotting, sugary cereal. "Oooh! I want that!" they squeal. "No sweetheart," you respond. Their brow furrows. Without breaking eye contact, they snatch the box off the shelf and put it in your cart. "No," you say again, feeling your stomach tighten into a knot. "This is not on our list." Cue screaming. Cue snot. Cue every eye in the aisle turning to look at you. Cue tantrum advice every toddler mom dreads hearing. (I'll let you take a wild guess as to why I could describe this particular scenario in my sleep.)
If you have a toddler, it's common knowledge that you regularly deal with tantrums. Maybe you're lucky and your kid doesn't have daily or even weekly tantrums, but you still, no doubt, have to deal with the high emotions and often inexplicable sobfests that are synonymous with toddlerhood. Toddlers do not have the mental capacity or social skills to effectively cope all the time, so tantrums are at once embarrassing as hell and developmentally unavoidable.
On top of that, tantrums, like snowflakes, are all different. (Also, a lot of them can bury and kill you). What works in one instance might not work in another. This does not stop other people from knowing, apparently, exactly what to do that you're clearly not doing to end the madness.
"Don't Just Ignore Them"
Sometimes "ignoring them" is the only way we, as parents, can get this dumpster fire of a situation to end quickly (or, like, ever). Any kind of attention — positive, negative, angry, compassionate, authoritarian, desperate — only serves to feed the behavior and either keep it going or escalate it. Is it annoying to have to deal with a tantrum-throwing toddler? Absolutely. But we'd be dealing with it whether or not we paid attention to the child or not.
In certain situations, inaction is a course of action.
"Don't Negotiate With Them"
Some people see stern words or anger as the only appropriate way to deal with a tantrum. Sometimes that'll work. Other times kids tantrum, though, because they feel powerless and a way to stop a tantrum is to allow them to feel heard.
For example, sometimes, if my son was having a tantrum I would ask him how he felt. If he was present enough to answer me, I could follow up with, "Oh, I understand. You feel [repeat emotion back to him] because [situation]." Sometimes that was enough to bring him down from a tantrum. Other times it didn't work. Either way, there was a contingent of people (eg: my grandfather) who thought this was coddling.
Here's the thing, though. It's not cuddling. It's teaching them to express and better handle emotions at an age when they're not developmentally capable of either. Plus, you want this to end, right?
"Let Them Know Who's Boss"
Oh. OK! Boy, why didn't I think of that? Of course! Thank you so much for this extremely useful advice!
Seriously, this is the parenting equivalent of telling a starving person, "You know what you need? Food!"
"Just Smack Them"
You have to know this is a touchy subject, yes? And do you really thinking bringing up a touchy subject in the middle of a stressful and emotional situation is the best idea? Look, I don't want to get into the whole "physical discipline" debate with you and you probably don't want to get into it with me, especially right now and as my child is screaming their damn head off. But let me put it to you like this: if this was something I was willing to do, don't you think it would have happened already?
"You Know What I Would Do?"
Oh do tell! Please share your bountiful wisdom with me! Because I'm sure you are far more experienced with my child than I am and therefore have incomparable insight into this situation!
Double points if the person in question doesn't really know your child.
Quadruple points if the person in question doesn't have children/familiarity with children.
All the points if this person is a stranger.
"Just Tell Them..."
Ah! That makes perfect sense! This emotional toddler will definitely be swayed by such a calm, logical argument! They're so reasonable, after all.
Threatening a child who is already freaking the eff out totally won't spiral them deeper into their chaotic emotional state.
Lying to the child to calm them down and then reveailng the lie moments later absolutely will not make this 1,000 times worse.
What would I do without you?
"Just Let Them..."
OK, sometimes you're going to give in (more on that in a minute) but being a parent means doing what's difficult when the time comes. Do you know what kind of inhuman monster my child would become if I gave into every single tantrum? Like, "Oh, all I need to do to get my way is to act like a beast?" It's like you people learned nothing from Veruca Salt in Willy Wonka.
I know this tantrum is annoying for you to have to sit through. It's annoying for me too... and there are only going to be more of them if I don't put my foot down here and now.
"Don't Give In To Them!"
Sometimes, bro, you do give in to a child's temper tantrum. We all recognize it's not a best practice as far as parenting is concerned, but we also recognize that you have to choose your hill to die on. And when life with your toddler metaphorically resembles the rolling hills of Connecticut, you can't die on all of them, you know? That's not to say you should give up every time things get tough, but it's OK to know your limits and choose your battles.
"Here, Let Me..."
*Maniacal laugh that goes on for way too long and starts to scare people*
Oh. Be my f*cking guest, friend.
Seriously, I am doing the absolute best I can (yes, even if the best I can is ignoring them to try to make them stop throwing a tantrum faster). Please believe that if it were in my power to effectively control my child's behavior right now, I would. Unfortunately — and I don't know if you've heard this yet or not — toddlers are people and, like all people, they have minds of their own. Moreover, those minds are still forming and learning socially acceptable behaviors. This tantrum is actually one such learning moment. Over time, all the tantrums added up will teach them, "Hey, tantrums aren't a good way to get what you want, plus they're socially unacceptable"
Until then, bear with me... and let me handle this.
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