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Tears, Tantrums And Terrible Twos

29/04/2015 11:52 | Updated 29 June 2015

Tears, tantrums and terrible twos

Last week, it all kicked off because of an egg sandwich. Yesterday, it was at bath time. Then, this morning, my toddler had a monumental strop over her hair. Apparently, attempting to put a hairclip in her fringe was the worst possible thing that a mother has ever, ever, EVER done to her child.

It ended with a full scale rampage around the living room during which the hairbrush hit the wall and the Grumpy One ended up prostrate, sobbing into the carpet.

And that was all before 9am.

For 95 per cent of the time, my toddler is the most delightful child. Polite, cuddly and caring, she's a parent's dream. But the other five per cent? She's a tantrum monster.

Let's just say that kid from the film, The Exorcist, has nothing on her. Death stare eyes, kicking, punching and screeching at top volume are all par for the course when my little one's in tantrum mode. She hasn't yet mastered speaking in tongues or that spinning head thing but it's only a matter of time.

When she reached two-and-a-half, her tantrums hit fever pitch. Now I know why so many 1950s mums used to hit the gin bottle mid afternoon.

'The other day, I'd cooked my two-year-old's pudding from scratch,' says mum-of-two Charlotte. 'But, because I mistakenly put it in the light blue bowl, not the dark blue one he'd requested, he chucked it on the floor. He wouldn't calm down, even when I brought him the 'correct' bowl.'

Then there are the playground stroppers. 'My toddler always goes in the same swing at the park,' says mum Laura. 'She was outraged to find a baby sitting in 'her' swing and threw herself on the ground, screaming, until the baby was removed. Awful.'

It's reassuring that my toddler isn't the only diva around. 'Rare is the child who doesn't have the occasional strop,' says Liat Hughes Joshi, author of Raising Children and New Old-fashioned Parenting'.

'They peak between the ages of one and three but some have more than others, and if yours is a top tantrummer, it can be frustrating, embarrassing and tiring.'

So why are some toddlers (mine) more tantrum prone? 'It might be due to personality but tiredness and hunger are common triggers,' says Liat Hughes Joshi. 'Your little one may usually be fine sharing toys, but once they're hungry and their friend wants to play with the same digger, all hell will let loose. Wherever possible, sticking with a decent daily meal and sleeping routine will minimise flash points.

'Another trigger is attention seeking. If that's what's happening, ignore the tears whenever possible and ask them to use their words instead. Be firm but remember that, for a toddler, any attention might feel good, even being told off. Be consistent. No needs to mean no and stay no, even if they unleash all their tears and yelling.'

Early years and primary education consultant Rebecca Teiger says that it's important to see things from your toddler's viewpoint.

'They're going through a developmental stage, working out a sense of who they are, and how much control and power they have over the world around them,' she says. 'They aren't called the 'terrible twos' for nothing.

'In their world, having the orange monkey plate for every meal or needing to put on their pyjamas themselves, even when they're straight out the bath with wet hair and it'd be so much quicker if you did it, are a matter of life or death.

'Children of this age crave familiar routines, a sense of security yet independence and clear, simple explanations and instructions.

'Try to give your child opportunities to practise being independent, such as letting them pick fruit and veg at the supermarket and allowing them to choose their own clothes. Does it really matter if they go out dressed as Fireman Sam every day?'

And how about coping during temper tantrums?

'As hard as it is, try to stay calm and speak in a low but firm voice,' says Rebecca Teiger. Give your child a moment to express their rage, then explain that you know that they're upset but that you can't make things better until they stop screaming, kicking or howling.

'Don't try to make the 'problem' better there and then, that only reinforces that tantrumming will get a result.

'Give as little attention as you can to the tantrum, step or look away, if safe to do so. Your child must understand that positive behaviour gets your attention better than screaming. Once calm, it's time for a cuddle and a chance to reassure them that you love them, but not their yowling.'

In my own experience, dealing with tantrums at home is hard enough but how about when it kicks off in public? I've lost count of the times my precious has caused a scene in playgroups, shops or the middle of the high street, with passers by slowing down to gawp.

It's humiliating, wrestling with a writhing toddler who'd rather hit you repeatedly in the face with a squeaky toy giraffe than sit in her buggy.

'Accept that sometimes it's embarrassing,' says Liat Hughes Joshi. 'If you're in a restaurant with a screeching child, be considerate to others by removing them from the scene.'

How about when strangers feel the need to pass judgement on you and your child? Recently, my daughter got upset when I wouldn't buy her a Peppa Pig magazine in ASDA.

Mid strop, an older woman walked past and tutted: 'Children are SO spoilt nowadays,' before stalking off. Hardly helpful!

'Many people forget that this is normal toddler behaviour and that we're all doing our best,' says Liat. 'Smile and say thank you for your thoughts. Then walk away with the knowledge that they don't know you, your child and what might be going on.'

Mum of one Anna has a novel way of dealing with her two-year-old's tantrums.

'I look at her and tell her that she really doesn't look cool when she does that,' she says.

While mum of two Leah has an 'if you can't beat 'em, join 'em attitude.

'You've got two choices,' she says. 'Ignore them completely or plonk yourself down next to them and scream just as loud. It soon shuts them up and yes, I've tried that tactic in Morrisons and it worked a treat.'

I'm not sure I'd go so far as staging my own supermarket meltdown but it's nice to know you're not alone, isn't it?

And if you're also struggling with a tiny tyrant right now, just remember that before we know it, they'll be teenagers and we'll have a whole new world of strops to deal with!

Someone pass the gin.

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