Friday, January 28, 2011

Understanding Tantrums

         Every day is a battle with a toddler. I've been thinking this for awhile. If every day I wake up expecting a battle, I will be dressed in my battle armour. And when you are dressed to fight, then a fight is what you will get. 
       It's time to change my thinking.

Let's try....

        Every day is full of learning opportunities with a toddler; for the parent!

 I cannot help but feel like it must be something I am doing wrong to cause Thing One to be getting upset every day, over such little things.
        Then the more tantrums Thing One has, the more I lose my temper. Which leads me to feel guilty, making me even more stressed. And the more stressed I am, the more stressed Thing One is going to be; leading to more tantrums!

      I decided to do some research. Gina Mireault, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Johnson State College, in Vermont, explained it like this:
"Kids this age (18 months to 4 years) think magically, not logically. Events that are ordinary to us are confusing and scary to them. They don't understand that the bathtub drain won't swallow them, or that their uncle can't really snatch their nose."

      Think about it... if you thought a simple bath would end in your demise, you would feel pretty confused and anxious everyday too. 

This feeling of heightend arousal causes our bodies to release cortisol, the "fight or flight" hormone. 

       So, when Thing One needs to come into the house because it's cold, and he wants to stay outside, he doesn't understand that you can get sick from being out in the cold too long, making him confused. This then releases the cortisol, causing the fight or flight reaction (aka a tantrum!).

    So it's not entirely my fault! He's not just being bad!

     I've always told myself "he can't help it, he's only 2." But how could I know for sure? I didn't want to just be ignoring him throwing a toy and screaming at me, but I also felt like it's just what kids do.
      Having the research to back it up helps. Next time Thing One is having a tantrum, I will try to remember how scary HIS world is, instead of how difficult he is making mine.

      Turning tantrums from battles into opportunities to learn can teach a parent so much. I'm learning to be more patient and compassionate, something I think everyone can have more of.

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