Are you the parent of a toddler? Than you are probably shaking your head in disbelief at the title of this piece. But stick with me, I might just convince you! Yes temper tantrums are awful, frustrating, humiliating (delete as appropriate) but they do serve a purpose.
Having worked with small people for nearly ten years I saw a lot of temper tantrums from the loud to the very loud to the ears-being-blown-off-your-head deafening. No sooner would that smiley, pudgy cheeked baby begin walking and making sounds, than the tantrum monster would rear its head and attack! Most toddlers will have tantrums and most parents will dread them. To us tantrums can seem nonsensical and upsetting. To a toddler they are completely justifiable but no less upsetting.
The first thing we need to remember, as parents, is you are not to blame for a tantrum...well in your toddler's eyes you most probably are. After all you are the one who said no to sky-diving off the couch or devouring that massive chocolate bar right before dinner. Bad mummy! On a more serious note though tantrums are developmentally appropriate amongst the toddler set. They are as normal as teething and a tendency for hating vegetables. Most toddlers will have at least one (if not a hundred) so, dear parent, you are most definitely not alone.
I like to think of tantrums as the child's way of saying 'hey, I'm no longer that tiny baby you could do whatever you liked with, I'm a person and I want x, y, z ' - essentially I am Toddler, Hear Me Roar. Tantrums are the only way these small people know they have a chance of being heard. We have all been there. Toddler is dawdling. You are running late. You try to hurry toddler along by putting him in his car-seat. Epic Parent Mistake! The cheeks go red, the lip drops, the limbs go stiff....before you know it a meltdown is imminent. To us toddler dawdling is, at best, slightly irritating, at worst, rage inducing but toddlers don't understand adult time schedules. What they do understand is that they enjoy climbing into their car-seat by themselves so why would you interfere with that?
Before you think I'm about to suggest we should let toddlers dictate how our lives are run I'm not. But, perhaps, for our sakes as well as theirs we could try to see things from their point of view. Sometimes just repeating back to your toddler what you think he/she wants can help. Then explain why that can't happen right now. This won't always work but everybody likes being heard and understood especially toddlers. A big hug can help too. Not one that suggests toddler is getting their way but one that says I get it and it's okay. Lots of parents worry a hug will give the wrong signal but once toddler understands a tantrum does not equal chocolate/toy/tv etc. a hug can actually help both of you to feel better.
My mother always says, when my little one is in meltdown mode, just be glad she has some fire in her. So I do try to remember that when we are in the shop and she is screaming at the top of her lungs. I wasn't one for tantrums when I was small and I actually still find it hard to stand up for myself or fight for my needs. I don't know if the two are related or not but I do know my little lady definitely has no problem sticking up for herself over the smallest perceived slight. Think of it as your toddler practicing her life-skills on you. Just like teaching someone to drive it's not always going to be pleasant but you are helping her navigate the road of life. You are the person she can make mistakes with or crash into without negative consequences.
So next time you are in a shop/restaurant/swimming pool and your little miss or mr starts the tantrum dance just remember; it can't be any worse than helping them learn to drive!
If you would like to read about my adventures with my tantruming toddler come find me at (Mis) Adventures in Toddlerdom and enjoy the madness!