“Any mom who says their toddler doesn’t have tantrums is lying,” my friend categorically stated over tea one afternoon.
“Or, in denial,” quipped another. “In my time, all my mom had to do was look at me. Makuha ka sa tingin, or else!” That seemed to be the general experience in our little group.
So what happened to us?
Why were we struggling so much to keep our kids in tow and under control? Sure, temper tantrums are funny, sometimes even hilarious, to talk about after a week has passed. But at the moment it is happening, it’s usually far from comedic. If in public, it is usually a source of embarrassment, as people turn to watch or pretend not to see. But at its worst, it can bring about Monster Mom Moments. Unnerving
When a new mom loses her patience and starts snapping at everyone around her, it’s easy to attribute the monster mom moment to hormones and the baby blues. But when that new mom is no longer really a newbie, it gets a little unnerving, both to the mom and those around her.
One of my friends recalls a moment when she called her own mom, crying, because she just didn’t know what to do with her toddler’s tantrums anymore.
I found myself face-to-face with my own monster mom one ordinary afternoon about a month ago. My daughter was wailing at the top of her lungs, and I was (very wrongly) trying to show her who was boss by matching her decibel levels.
I am so glad my mom arrived at that moment for a visit. She swooped in on Adriana to calm her down. A few minutes later, Adriana was lying in bed with a bottle of milk and within a short while, fast asleep.
Adriana hadn’t done anything truly wrong to merit such a scolding. On the other hand, I hadn’t done that much to upset her either. But I was completely distracted, as I was trying very hard to do everything I had to do for that day. I know I had no excuse to lose my temper, but when do we ever?
There comes a point when a child is past listening. She was crying pretty wildly already, and what she needed was a calm mother, not a crazy one.
I suppose sometimes in our desperate attempts to be “in control” of the situation and our children’s tantrums, we tend to overreact. The more we lose control of the situation, the more we struggle and fight to “put our foot down,” and soon, a monster mom moment arises. And when it does, nobody wins.
Accepting that there will be tantrums, both controllable and uncontrollable, is a humbling experience, but is the first step in avoiding those showdowns between you and your child.
Toddlers don’t set out to intentionally misbehave. It’s just that their concept of good and bad is still quite vague and limited. They’re not out to embarrass you, and a tantrum does not mean that you’ve failed Parenting 101. A child’s self-control comes from years of practice and guidance. In the meantime, it’s open season for impulse actions and spur-of-the-moment decisions.
Do so out of love
I picked up a number of things from “Caring For Your Young Child, From Birth To Age 5.” There was a chapter about toddlers which had some great insights. Some of the things that stuck to me was that when we set out to discipline our toddlers, it’s important to remember that we are doing so out of love, and not to punish or hurt.
Remembering this makes it easier to act in a calm manner, no matter how wild the situation may get. It’s also important to be consistent and immediate in our actions. A child will only get confused if today she’s allowed to do as she pleases and then reprimanded for the same actions tomorrow.
It also helps to call out unwanted behavior as soon as it is done, and not an hour later. Otherwise, forget it. Your toddler will find it difficult to associate the punishment now with the action done more than 15 minutes ago.
As easy as it may be to forget that our toddlers have real and distinct feelings, they do. Acknowledging them when they are about to start going wild may be just what you need to put the fire out. However, if she is bent on putting on a performance worthy of Famas, then let her. Usually, this is their way of trying to get your attention or dealing with the conflict that you guys are having.
A friend of mine turns her back and completely ignores her son until he calms down. After that, she calmly and determinedly repeats her request or order. It’s her way of letting him see that his outbursts are a waste of time and energy.
Of course, being in public is a different story. You may have mastered the art of tuning out your screaming, kicking toddler but others haven’t! I usually just pick up my daughter and take her out of the venue and bring her to the restroom, where we can settle things properly without having to worry about the people around us.
Another thing to remember is the fact that nothing is ever obvious to a child. Really. Rules have to be repeated over and over again until they finally get it. Having said that, it helps to remember that a toddler can only grasp so much, so try not to overwhelm her with too many rules. Help her out by eliminating temptation and taking note of her circumstances.
If you see that she’s tired or hungry, don’t take her with you on your errands anymore. If you know that your child has a healthy dose of curiosity and has inherited your lack of grace, then don’t hang around the home department of Rustan’s and then take everything out of her outstretched hands. Instead of asking if she’d like to get dressed to visit her grandparents, try offering her a (limited) choice of clothes to choose from for her trip to their house.
Watch what you say
It also helps to watch what we say. It would drive anyone crazy to hear, “no, no, no” to everything, so do a little word magic and say, “Yes, AFTER you do this” or “Yes, you can do that later with daddy!” Conversely, when your child does something correct or good, heap on the praises and make her feel like she’s discovered world peace. Reward her with extra hugs and kisses (on top of those that you give her on a daily basis), not material goods. While I struggle to always apply positive reinforcement, I truly do believe that it is one of the best forms of discipline.
When it’s over, don’t dwell on what happened by continuously bringing it up. After the apologies are done with, a hug and a kiss are recommended to make it clear that it was the toddler’s actions that we are mad at, and not her as a person.
And lastly, when all else fails and your child is uncontrollable (because there will be times when they will be) and you feel you can no longer control yourself, remove yourself from the situation and turn her over to someone first while you calm yourself down.
Try to see if there is an underlying source of anger for you that is causing you to take it out on your child. Nobody ever said that we have to be perfect to be mothers. But we do have the obligation to make ourselves the best that we can be to our children, and if that means taking some time out to get yourself together and deal with your own issues, then by all means, do so.
But don’t feel bad if there’s nothing actually wrong. It’s all right to admit that you’re just really having a bad day, and it’s better to leave for the moment than to force the issue and turn it into a monster mom moment.