Maternal amnesia is a wonderful thing. I'd forgotten all about tantrums. Even convinced myself that my first two children had sailed peacefully through their twos. Until this morning, when my third baby had his first proper tantrum. And it all came flooding back. The full horror of the toddler tantrum:
Could be anything. A raspberry pip that you didn't scoop off their jam quick enough. Lifting them down from a dangerously high wall. Putting the wrong Peppa Pig episode on. Asking for the bread knife back. The list is endless.
Action: Anticipate all possible causes of annoyance and remove them from toddler's sight. In other words, place your child in a vacuum until he is four.
This stage is a natural phenomenon of volcanic proportions. It has a few sub-stages, which can occur either consecutively or all at once:
- Screaming and shouting
- Hitting - anything in his path, but especially you
- Lying on floor, kicking
- Back-arching or stiffening
- Silent air-lock crying, while fixing you with his eyes, wide with accusation, fury and vengefulness
Action: Stand back and be amazed.
Things then go up a notch. The rage can no longer be contained. Things become critical. Your child will try to:
- run into the road
- lurch forward in his buggy
- wrestle himself out of his carseat
- stand up in his highchair
- hit your boiling cup of tea out of your hand
Action: Secure your child's safety. Try not to panic.
Just as you think you're about to have a heart attack, they go limp. Instead of red mist eyes you have a catatonic stare. It does not flicker even when you come right up to his little tear-stained face. Instead of the stiff-board banshee, you have a suddenly pliant body. It is almost worse than the rod-back wonder.
Action: Marvel at how long it takes him to blink.
Silence descends. He might even let you sing to him. Rock him. Stroke his back while he lies on the floor, spent with emotion. Hold him on your lap. He won't respond, but he won't explode either. You think it's all over. You're beginning to consider getting on with your day. But you are deluded, my friend. This is just an interlude. He is thinking about the grievance, feeling it anew, building up a fresh head of steam until...
Action: Cuddle child. Scan area for further potential triggers / weapons.
The tantrum is resurrected. He catches sight of the errant raspberry pip again, and a wave of fresh outrage overwhelms him. HOW DARE YOU, MOTHER?! You repeat stages 2 to 5. If you're lucky it will blow over quicker on the rerun. Or maybe it's just because you know where you're going this time. You just have to ride it out until you can take the opportunity to break the cycle with:
Action: As above, while rustling for snacks. And sieving jam.
Whatever it takes. The tantrum has run its course. Your toddler's energy levels need replacing big time. Who knows, maybe it was a blood sugar dip that caused it in the first place. But can you get a child to eat when they're really hungry? No, you cannot. But now you have your chance. If you can just distract them long enough to eat some jelly magic, you can put the whole thing behind you.
Until the next time...
Action: Repeat after me: "It's only a phase, it's only a phase." If after 6pm: open a bottle.