I’ve heard being a parent is one of the most rewarding, yet challenging endeavors in life you will ever go through. Babies are so sweet and cuddly and then something happens when they venture into “toddlerhood.” They seemingly lose their minds! The struggle is developmental, of course. They are figuring out how to be independent, they are trying to communicate with limited language and they want to explore with limited movement capabilities. Naturally they are frustrated. They express themselves through tantrums and if parents are not careful, their response can escalate the situation further. Even Disney recognizes that parents struggle when their toddler is melting down and provided a list of things you can do.
The other day I was keeping a toddler that I love dearly and it was time for lunch. I sweetly explained that we were going to eat and asked him to get in his seat. He looked at me and screamed as loud as he could. I was beside myself! He would not stop. No amount of soothing or explanation on my part would get him to stop crying. I found myself getting frustrated but I wasn’t getting anywhere arguing with a 1 year old. I put him in his high chair and started making silly faces and dancing around like a lunatic until he started laughing. He even ate his lunch and I didn’t have to call his parents for help and tell them their toddler is melting down.
Unknowingly, I did a few things right. Who would have thought of dancing as a problem solving skill? Below are six tips to hep you keep your calm when your toddler is melting down:
Know your limits.
Chances are, it is not just about the toddler melting down or their behavior. There are many stressors that you encounter on a daily basis so begin practicing the art of saying no to things that are going to add too much to your plate. If you have errands or a work project make sure you allow for plenty of time so that you are not even more pressured by a deadline if the toddler is melting down. Along those lines, know triggers for your little one and try to avoid them. Do your best not to interrupt eating or napping times, as that is sure to increase the likelihood of a toddler meltdown.
Pick your battles.
There are some rules that are needed. These are to keep your toddler safe and growing appropriately. However, does it matter if they want to wear weird clothes or use the same cup everyday? Pick the things that are most important and let the rest go. This will help decrease both of your levels of frustration which limits the amount of stress and the likelihood of a tantrum.
Take a time out.
Sometime both mom and toddler need a break from one another. If the toddler is melting down (and is in a safe place) this might be a nice time to take a breather in another room, take a sip of your favorite sparkling water, step outside to rock on the front porch for a few minutes, etc. This brief break will help you to be in a calm space to respond and it will allow for the little on to cool down as well. It is also important for you to take extended breaks from the toddler as well. Ask a family member or trusted friend to babysit for date night or have a girl’s night while baby bonds with Daddy. Whatever it is, you both need a break from one another at times.
Little did I know that my song, dance and funny faces would help as much as it did! If your toddler is melting down distraction is sometimes the best and easiest medicine. Bring out a different toy, grab a book, make a face, tickle them gently, try anything to distract. This helps them to redirect their attention appropriately.
Find an outlet.
Often times we refer to this as “our tribe.” These are the people that you can reach out to to vent to, to ask advice and just talk to. Reaching out to another adult that can commiserate and possibly give advice is amazing. When your toddler is melting down, knowing that you have someone to call once it is over or even if you call while it is happening for back up, is such a relief. Remember you are not alone.
Love on yourself.
It is true that you need to care for yourself before you can care for or love others. It is vitally important that you practice good self-care. Self-care for moms is usually simple – make sure you are eating well, getting some exercise, sleeping as well as you can and occasionally splurging for something more luxurious. Make sure that you are taking time to take care of you! When you are feeling good then it is easier to manage the emotions that come when the toddler is melting down. So, take that bubble bath, go on a date, eat the fancy chocolates and use the pretty glasses!
Try the last tip first. It’s probably the most important. You have to create space to deal with life’s stressors. Check out my other blog on self-care.
What are your favorite tricks for managing parenting stress?