The Tao of Tantrums

I have a toddler, and I nanny a not-yet-sitting-up-by-herself baby full time. So far, it has been very interesting, delightful, and occasionally completely chaotic. My daughter is just now entering into the phase of “tantrums”, where her frustrations can quickly explode into very intense emotion. Now all of a sudden she has to share mommy with another baby, so she sometimes must WAIT instead of having her needs met immediately. Recipe for disaster? Not necessarily!

When a baby is crying, it is instinctual to check on them to see what they need. When a more self-reliant toddler is crying, it is easier to assume that they are “just being whiny” or “can wait a little longer while I finish the dishes”, etc. But ignoring children sets a bad example, and soon they will start to ignore YOU when you want them to pay attention! Despite knowing this, I have recently been doing something foolish…

Whenever I would bring the baby in to the diaper changing room, my daughter would follow us in and start crying with RAGE. I didn’t understand why she was so mad, but I knew the baby needed a diaper change or SHE would start to freak out too, so I would just try to do it as quickly as possible. Usually I’d try to distract my daughter with an interesting object (ooo shiny!). But then the next time the baby needed a diaper change, it would be the same thing over again.

At some point, I realized that perhaps my daughter just didn’t know WHY I was bringing the baby in there and doing something on a high table she couldn’t see the top of, WHY she was being made to wait, WHY mommy was hurrying and being stressed in response to her cries instead of LISTENING. I decided to take a moment – breathe – and explain! I knelt down with the baby on my knee, and said to my daughter very slowly, and simply: “There’s POOP in the baby’s diaper!”. She stopped crying, and said “DI-PUH”, pointing to the baby’s diaper. I said “Yes. POOP! In the diaper. She wants a NEW diaper. Should we give her a new diaper?”

After that, she seemed to understand. The next time the baby needed a diaper change, my daughter pointed down the hall toward the changing room as if to say “Let’s go!”

When you are tired, trying to finish something, and there is a tiny person screaming at you for a reason that you don’t think is reasonable, it is sometimes hard to know what is best to do. Really, the best thing you can do is BE CALM yourself, and notice your kid. They are trying to tell you something that feels very important to them. The dishes can wait. The diapers can wait. What is actually needed might only take a moment.

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About Tikva Adler

Hello! My name is Tikva Adler, a full-time mom, nanny, and artist. This blog is a place for me to share my adventures in consciousness and awesomeness. Being of the baby-wearing, co-sleeping, hula-hooping, tree-hugging, moonlight-dancing, paint-splattered sort, my advice and stories tend to revolve around those types of themes. Stay tuned!

Posted on June 23, 2011, in awareness, parenting and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I love this post!

    So many parents do seem to just write off toddler cries (“tantrums”) when there isn’t an obvious reason for the upset — as though if we can’t just figure it out and address it right away, it must be non-sensical.

    Our three girls never had the “terrible-twos” (or “threatening-threes”, for that matter), because they knew that we’d respond when they needed us (whether they were upset or not). They didn’t have to turn up the volume, or energy, nearly as much as other kids I’ve seen who’s parents regularly ignore their preferences, write-off the validity of the kids’ upset feelings, and/or seek too quickly to fix situations rather than addressing feelings.

    Thanks again for sharing your process.

    Be well,
    Nathan M

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