I remember being a young mother in the middle of my weekly shop. The supermarket buzzes with busy people trying to get yet another errand off their list. I have a million things to sort out while accompanied my willful two and a half-year-old son.
Today, he is particularly decisive; we wrestle over a mini shopping cart while I grumble under my breath about why supermarkets should supply mini trolleys to little ones anyway!
My boy is now randomly placing items into his cart and dropping items on the floor as he goes. The struggle truly begins over chewing gum, then suddenly all is lost. He flings himself to the floor in a state of utter despair and wails inconsolably while kicking and rolling everywhere.
I am aghast! The supermarket seemed to become still, all eyes on me while I plead with my son’s deaf ears to calm down. I would be in a lost battle, if only I knew then what I know now.
Let’s clarify a few points about the dreaded tantrum:
Firstly, they do begin around the age of two, because your little one has just realised s/he has an impact on his world as an individual and s/he loves it! Her/His brain is duplicating connections and enhancing skills at a rate that will never be matched ever again in her/his life. This makes her/him think that s/he is capable of actions her/his body lack the coordination for. Her/His brain says “Practice makes perfect “and s/he is up for the job. The only thing standing in her/his way is all adults and their rules. It is at this point that s/he loses her/his composure and usually where you lose clarity.
If we realised that the intention of a tantrum is not to drive us insane but to express the overwhelming inadequacy and frustration children this age experience maybe we would be able to take other stance in the circumstances.
Young children this age do not have the experience or store of knowledge that we use to calm down our sadness, fear, anxiety and frustration, once they start to lose control of their emotions, they have no way back and are genuinely shaken up by the sheer magnitude of emotion that tidal waves over them. In fact, most of the time, they fall into an exhausted stupor, sweaty and shaking when it is all over
So what is our role as adults in this mess? Firstly, try to distract from the offending behaviour, if that fails, say your piece and brave the storm in silent support. Arguing, pleading and yelling are of no use, they are beyond listening. Any teaching you may want to do will have to wait until the avalanche is over.
Take them to a safe place away from prying eyes and wagging tongues, and when it’s all over, cuddle them. Yes …..Give them a cuddle. Your child needs to know you love them no matter how much trouble they are in. First the cuddle, then we breathe, then we teach life lessons.
As I said, I wish I knew this then.