Toddler Terror

Calm after the storm.
Life with a toddler can be such a joy, Kellen can be the sweetest little guy, ready with cuddles, kisses and goofy things that make me laugh. But… oh my god when will the tantrums stop?! When Jamie and I started dating Patrick was just 2 years old. While we weren’t living together I was very involved with Patrick through his toddler years, I remember the crying and some throwing of fits. When Kellen was born I remember thinking the whole baby thing is new but I feel confident when it comes to dealing with a toddler. Boy was I wrong, I’ve learned 2 important lessons, siblings can be incredible different from each other and the term terrible twos is an understatement.
Don’t get me wrong, Kellen is not all naughty. Yesterday we went to get his haircut and he sat so nicely, made his version of conversation with the lady and said thank you at the end. The women at the salon were fawning over him saying what a well behaved angel he is. Then we stopped at the Waitrose Café for a quick lunch and the older couple at the table next to us commented on what well behaved children they are. While as the Mom I think they are mostly perfect and take these compliments as confirmation that my kids are extraordinary, I also know we have a secret lurking in the background that could be exposed at any minute. Kellen is a terrible tantrum thrower.
Take this morning for example, he is currently obsessed with only wearing football clothes and I’ve convinced him that adidas sweat suits are football trousers, so we are picking out which football shirt he will wear with his football trousers. He gets dressed is all smiles and then for no apparent reason the switch is flipped and I have a little terror on my hands. This usually involves crying/screaming, flailing, throwing toys and yelling, it is unbelievable how quickly he can go from happy guy to out of control. Then once the tantrum starts there is no one solution to make it end. Now we have been having tantrums since around the time he turned 2 so it’s been a while, I’ve read book and articles on how to respond to your toddler, make them feel heard/loved/supported.  Through these calm parenting measures you can magically take a frantic toddler and somehow reason with them. None of these seem to work for me.
So now we have a toddler in a full tantrum, a baby who usually starts crying at this point due to hearing her brother cry and a Momma trying to remain calm. I’ve tried ignoring the tantrum, reasoning with him, time outs, etc. Time outs did work for a period but now he just gets up and walks away, so now I have a choice to make, do I put him back in time out repeatedly or ignore the behaviour? If you read one article it says they are doing this for attention so by wrestling them into time out again and again you are just giving them the desired attention and affirming that bad behaviour gets them the desired result. Another article will say that you have to enforce time out to be consistent and consistency is key in setting limits for your child, it will make them feel safe and confident. As I spend time trying to decipher which route to take he is getting more upset and eventually I throw all the advice out the window take some toys away, raise my voice and move on.
Here is where it gets really good though. Raised in a catholic family I think there is something inherent in using guilt as a parenting tool. It was my loving Abuelita that would say take one more bite of dinner if you love me, and then if you refused to eat she would act wounded that you didn’t love her. This would then continue through all family members, parents, aunts, uncles until your plate was cleaned. As I got older being told my parents were disappointed wash crushing, guilt was incredibly effective with me. So once Kellen is done screaming I go in and tell him that Momma is not very happy and he was very naughty, my lovely boy turns to me and says “stop talking”. About 10 minutes later Kellen is calmed down and he comes to me and says “You happy Momma?” in a sweet and somewhat worried voice. This is where he really gets me because it’s so sweet and I feel so guilty for trying to make him feel guilty. Ahhh, it’s backfired and I’ve actually guilted myself!
We have good days and bad days. If it’s a multiple tantrum day this is when I’ll start daydreaming about going back to work and wondering what it is I’m doing wrong. Surely my sweet nieces and nephews were never so stubborn and out of control. If it is a good day I’ll just move on and ignore the fact that I’m terrified, if this is Kellen at 2 I don’t even want to think of him at 16. When Jamie gets home from work I’ll recount the entire episode for him and somehow I can’t quite capture the horror of it all and sounds like a normal toddler fit, this is usually what gives me some perspective. The one thing we do agree is that I need some more time out of the house. We are going to instate Mom’s day out where at least once a month I leave for a day to do whatever I want all by myself, no kids, not even Ella. Ella by the way inches closer to toddlerhood each day, I can tell she is watching and taking notes and just what buttons to push and when…

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