Taming Toddler Tantrums: The Seesaw Effect

You know the scene: Cutest little 2-year-old you’ve ever seen transforms into a maniac, rolling on the floor, clenching fists, and sobbing in deep desperation and sorrow because she’s just realized her cup holds milk instead of juice. Or she dropped her book. Or a fly buzzed by. Or the bubble popped before she reached it. Of course, these “devastating lows” of life deserve only a full-throttle fit.

While the toddler tantrums are always dramatic, sometimes hysterical, and never fun, what do you, the ever-loving parent, actually do about it?

(When you find the answer, give me a call. ‘Kay?)

Here’s my gut reaction: Huff and puff with my hand on my hip, thinking (and sometimes saying) “really?” Use the harshest tone I can muster. Stomp off into another room. Toss out imperatives: “Stop. Get up. Quit. Now.” In a nutshell, I throw a tantrum. I mean, these devastating lows of life deserve only a full-throttle fit . . . right?

Thankfully–oh-so-thankfully–I received great advice from a mama friend of three: When your wee one begins to escalate, imagine you’re riding a seesaw. As the toddler (baby, heck, teen for that matter) gets more and more upset, losing control, the parent needs to choose to become more and more calm in action, in tone, and in posture. The more dramatic the fit, the calmer the parent’s reaction. Even when quick action needs to be taken (like instances where the child may cause harm), keeping the seesaw effect in mind keeps me level-headed and able to make parenting choices that are more well-rounded, selfless, and aimed at instruction rather than reaction.

Friends, I cannot tell you how many times the seesaw saved me from a tantrum production my sweetie could only envy. By keeping myself calm in whatever action is appropriate (discipline, instruction, comfort), this often squelches the escalation of the situation. It’s waaay better to have one crazed person instead of two. (Can I get an Amen?) And more often than not, my calm reaction rubs off. At the very least, it is teaching my wee one how to calmly handle challenging situations.

The seesaw analogy also applies in opposite scenarios . . . like when your child is in danger or ill. I need to be more aggressive in protecting her when she may be less concerned or unable to help herself.

So, friend, thank you for the advice! And here’s to hoping the seesaw helps you, dear reader, put a little tame into the tantrum.

What strategies do you have to tackle tantrums? 



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