Mindful Parenting,  Toddler Life

Mindful Parenting | Where There’s A Temper Tantrum…

From The Mom Blog WI archives…
| Mindful Parenting | 
Where There’s a Temper Tantrum

    I recently read a parenting post about toddler temper tantrums, and for the life of me I cannot remember who wrote it or what the name of the article was or even where I found it, so I can’t give proper credit, (if it was yours, let me know and I’ll give proper credit). Of course I had only skimmed it at the time, but summed up it was something to the effect of, “Where there is a tantrum, there is frustration and an unmet need or desire.” 

    And that stuck with me, hard. I had never thought of it that way. Don’t get me wrong, I understood my son was frustrated! Believe me, I knew my son was frustrated! That part was obvious. I just hadn’t really thought of it on such a deep level. And it has really changed the way I view and handle my son’s temper tantrums. 

    I’ve read the articles that tell not to let your toddler’s temper tantrums trigger you, and to remain impassive and understanding. Everyone says to help them through the storm of emotions they’re experiencing, to help them learn how to cope and express themselves and that it’s okay to experience strong emotions. But when my son is throwing a temper tantrum, I myself am experiencing a whirlwind storm of emotions all my own that I often struggle to understand and control or cope with

    I’m a first time mom! And even though it’s already been nearly two whole years since I started this whole mom thing, I’m still learning! I still struggle to remain unmoved or completely unfazed by my son’s outbursts. And quite frankly, I never notice a difference in my son’s tantrums when I’m completely unfazed or completely triggered. When I’m the super chill, calm, quiet and understanding mom who sits there on the floor at eye level and tries to calm him down, it’s not like it’s miraculous and he all of the sudden stops. Nope, he just continues to carry on like I’m not even trying or making a difference. It’s hard, and there’s no magical thing you’re going to do that’s going to end your toddler’s temper tantrums. This mom thing is hard! H-A-R-D, HARD! 

    If I’m completely and totally honest, my biggest parenting weakness is my short fuse and my incredible lack of patience. And I know it! I will own that. And I work on it, endlessly. And I feel tremendously guilty about it 9 times out of 10. But as we descend further and further into the world of full blown temper tantrums in our house, with my son screaming, yelling, crying, screeching, kicking, hitting, throwing himself onto the floor, rolling around, slamming his face against the carpet or kitchen floor, (yes, you read that right), yelling,“GHET GO!” and everything in between, I find my fuse gets shorter and shorter every time. (I am only human.)

    My tolerance grows less and less, and I find myself unbelievably frustrated; with my son for behaving this way, with myself for not being more patient, but mostly, I’m frustrated on behalf of my son. And I am already frustrated for my own reasons, with my own things. I am frustrated because my son cannot communicate with me. But I become even more frustrated because my son is frustrated by his inability to effectively communicate his needs and desires to me. Then I become frustrated with myself for not being able to understand my own son! I’m his mother! I should be able to understand him and fulfill his wants and needs. And ultimately, sadly, I blame myself.

    Yes, I blame myself for my son’s temper tantrums. At the end of a long, hard day of work and food and dinner and tantrum after tantrum about not brushing his teeth ten times a night or not touching the one thing that he knows not to touch, again, I blame myself for not giving him the proper tools so that he can fully express himself or communicate what’s truly important to me. I become angry with myself because it must be my fault. I’m his mother. I should be giving him what he needs, and what he needs is to be able to communicate and tell me what he wants and tell others what he needs or what he wants to do. And there’s nothing I can do but keep on keeping on. I can’t do anything but continue to try and give him those tools and learning blocks and help him make progress every single day and hope that eventually everything will click together and he will finally be able to effectively communicate with me, and everyone else around me for that matter. 

And people wonder why parents are 
so strung out and exhausted! 

    Last night, my son carried on and on, and whined, and cried, and eventually howled during our entire bedtime routine and refused to go to sleep, which he never does. He would start to fall asleep, get real drowsy and then he would suddenly jolt awake and start all over again with the whining and progressing eventually to the pathetic, gut wrenching howling, even when I held him. Even when I brought him into my bed, and held him close and cuddled him, and touched his face and held his hands, and ran my fingers through his hair. Nothing helped him fall asleep. Something kept waking him up. And he carried on like that for almost two hours, which he hasn’t done in months. So I checked his ears, pressed on them and pulled on them, to see if they were causing him any pain. And I checked him for a fever, and I pressed on his stomach to see if it was causing him any pain, I checked his throat and his diaper, and nothing. Nothing that I could see. No visible signs or symptoms of what was wrong, and try as he might, he couldn’t tell me. And I had never felt like such a failure. 

    My son is not a whiner. He is not a crier. He does not carry on like that, unless something is very wrong or about to be wrong. Even when he had Influenza A and pneumonia at the same time, he didn’t carry on like that. And tonight he has a low grade fever, and who knows what tomorrow will bring. But the part that sucks the most, is that he can’t tell me any of that. He can’t tell me his stomach is upset, or that his head hurts, or that he’s nauseous, or that he doesn’t feel good. 

    When I became a parent, I thought a lot of things… but I never thought communication would be our biggest battle, or that we would struggle with it so greatly. I thought, perhaps (definitely) naively so, that we would go from one phase to another; not talking, to effectively communicating and it would be, not an easy transition, but I didn’t think it would be this damn hard! It just isn’t something you think about when you’re going to have a baby. You just don’t realize it until you’re on your hands and knees on the carpet in the middle of another temper tantrum, living it, that it’s a long, lengthy, hard road. The reality is there’s at least an entire year, if not more, (I’ll let you know when we get through this and how long it took.,) where you struggle on a daily basis with this impossibly difficult language barrier. 

    And even through all of it, even though it’s been hard these last few days, these last few weeks I keep going back to that article in my head that I read, and it’s so true. “Where there’s a tantrum, there’s frustration and an unmet need or desire.” And it’s completely changed me. He’s just as frustrated as I am, and both of us being upset isn’t going to help. So I’m more patient. I’m finding myself more understanding, (at least at the beginning of the evening,) and more empathetic. And I’m honestly enjoying myself and the time with my son a lot more these last few days than I have been, even through the impossible temper tantrums. I’m still human, and I’m still a mom, but for what it’s worth, it’s definitely worth thinking about tantrums on a different level, and trying to put yourself in their shoes.

    Stay strong, mommies. Stay patient and kind, and as always, love your little ones like there’s no tomorrow. 

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