I feel exonerated. Finally. When my daughter was two, her temper tantrums merited a blue ribbon. Once, as I was leaving a coffee date, a friend with a child also two, remarked, “I don’t know how you stand it, Lo.” She stared with me at the floor where my feisty adorable blonde-haired child splayed herself out, arms and legs in x-fashion, screaming. All because I said, “It’s time to go home.”
“Can’t you do something?” my friend said as her child stood docilely at her side.
So, imagine this week when I woke up to an NPR story on temper tantrums and found out the right thing to do is to let the child work it out. Researchers have found that ordinary tantrums have rhythms of anger and sadness. “The trick in getting a tantrum to end as soon as possible,” one of the researchers said, “was to get the child past the peaks of anger.” Once the child is past being angry, what is left is sadness, and sad children reach out for comfort. The quickest way past the anger is to “do nothing.”
It wasn’t long after I got up that my daughter called. She is now the mother of a two-year-old who has “melt-downs”. Happily, I told her the news of how I had handled her now famous tantrums properly. When I finished, she quipped, “At least you did one thing right!” Ha Ha Ha
Many of us have had first-hand experience with temper tantrums, either our own children, or other people’s in the mall, the church nursery, or the grocery store. We see mothers shouting back, yanking arms, threatening. For some reason, probably from having tried to intervene, I realized I could not talk to my daughter or try to pick her up. I had found that she would eventually wind down. Without the benefit of the findings of a research study, I sensed she just had to get her unhappiness of the moment out of her system.
And, now, I know I was right. My advice to you moms: Be easy on yourselves. Be open to what the research says and, the next time your toddler has a temper tantrum, take a deep breath, count to ten, and stand ready to give a great big hug.