“I want a gun, I want a gun, I want a gun” J screamed at the top of his lungs round the supermarket. Looking back, I should have made a sharp exit after the fruit and veg aisle but no, I was standing my ground and he would learn…….
I used to think that buying a magazine with plastic toys (that break within 5 minutes and cost a small fortune ) was a clever tactic to get me round the supermarket sane. It kept J busy and his eyes distracted from the toy aisle, ditto sweet and crisps aisles. After a few trips I found that generally by the time we were ten minutes in J had changed his mind and wanted a different comic and toy, this would be after he had ripped open the one he had so desperately chosen five minutes earlier.
On the gun day (the gun came free with a Ben Ten comic) I decided to keep shopping to prove to Jack that I wouldn’t give in to his crazy demands. Most people I passed gave me sympathetic, knowing looks but one man decided to stand right in front of the trolley to make his thoughts known.
Him : “You look like you are having a nightmare.”
Me : “Yes, its not ideal but hey ho.”
Him : “Mine are all grown up now.”
Me : “So you must remember how hideous this stage is.”
Him : “My children, never behaved like that.”
Asshole, I mean seriously. He stopped me in the supermarket just to tell me how I looked out of control and the fact that his angels (now in their twenties, so he’s probably forgotten) had never ever had a wobbly about anything in public?
Anyway, in hindsight J was never too bad with his tantrums but C, the two-year old is a whole different story. He has pushed me more than any other human being ever has. He screams at a high pitch, he has bitten and hit me, he runs off all the time and always gives me a little look with a twinkle in his eye just before he commits his worst crimes.
I’ve read it all. Netmums, Mumsnet, other blogs, books, I’ve watched Supernanny and any childcare programme that could help me.
On my bookshelf recommended by friends are the following books : Divas and Dictators, Raising and Praising Boys, The Contented Toddler, Supernanny.
Now and again I pick one up and understand that my child is not yet three and cannot full understand reason and is pushing his boundaries to test what he can get away with. This is reassuring but then I hang out with friends who have similar aged children and they always appear to be well-behaved and in control.
Before I wrote this blog I wrote to several friends for advice on tantrums. Reward charts were a big hit and also tantrum charts (which deduct treats across the week for each tantrum) but two things stood out to be very useful tools for me. I can give C bribes, stickers and rewards for his behaviour but I need something to improve mine when I react to him.
First method from www.thedaddycomplex.com CTFD
To use CTFD, just follow these simple steps:
1. Calm the fuck down.
2. There is no second step.
I bloody love this. When C is in a rage, then it drives me into a rage and all the books and theories go totally out of the window. I apply this to daily life now and as a couple in my relationship we use it for road rage, bickering, getting stressed over spilt drinks, food being slung across the kitchen, you name it we can apply CTFD to the situation and it works. Plus, the kids do not understand the abbreviation yet, so it works wonders.
Second method comes from www.thebreathingroom.co.uk 4 Steps to feeling CALM
When our little ones get themselves into emotional states of tantrum and tears, their breathing changes dramatically. Encouraging them to breathe deeply in these times of distress will help them feel calm, relaxed and playful again.
Here are a few tips to keep calm when all is mad around you.
Check your own breathing. It’s more than likely that when your child is distressed you instantly react and start to shorten your own breathing or even hold your breath. Take a moment. Place your hands on your lower belly. Breathe in, your belly should expand on the inhale – this will indicate a full diaphragmatic breath. When we breathe into our belly this can help us access our parasympathetic nervous system which helps us naturally fell more relaxed. Take five deep breaths. In through the nose and out through the nose. Be present with each breath and let the shoulders relax on the exhalation.
Allow: Let your toddler scream and shout and verbally encourage them to feel these feelings. Reassure them it’s OK to feel this way: ‘It’s OK to feel angry, it’s OK to feel upset, it’s OK to feel frustrated” and remind them to “Breathe”. Just saying the word “breathe” will eventually help them to understand how important learning to breathe well in times of distress will help them feel calm. I have a very lively 17 month boy and he’s often falling over, getting frustrated and sometimes lashes out. I’m constantly reminding him to take a deep breaths. He understands. He breathes in a very exaggerated fashion through his nose which makes both him and I laugh and diverts his attention from feeling frustrated. I’m not saying he understands every time nor does he go from ‘mad to zen’ in under ten seconds but I truly believe that the sooner we teach our little ones to breathe in times of distress this will help them throughout all of their life.
Let go and laugh: Separate yourself from the dramatic scene in front of you. Let go of your attachment to this moment. Allow them their own space to let go. You can be in the same room but take a few moments to just sit and let them be in this state. Then try to make them laugh. You know what makes them tick. Do your best to make them laugh. Dance, Throw a tantrum yourself (in public if you dare), do anything which you know makes them giggle. This humorous distraction should get them out of a state in no time.
Mirror breathing. Hold them close to you. Try and have your belly touching their belly and breathe together. Make sure your breathing is deep and calm (this may take some practice) Breathing in belly out. Slow everything down. Tell them to breathe slowly deeply. When children enter a very emotional state, their breathing tends to reside in the upper chest which over time can cause more distress for them. Encouraging them to breathe deeply, together with you, will see them feel more relaxed. You can also place your hand on their lower belly (an inch below their naval) and say ‘breathe into my hand’. ‘Breathing in belly out’. Breathing consciously and deeply takes time and practice but the key to a more relaxed life really is right under our noses.
So, am I winning? Some days, yes but on others I am still failing in many ways. When a toddler has serious tantrums it tests your patience, understanding and control on a whole new level to anything that has come before. C is improving a fair bit and I know many of the triggers now (not having milk covering every tiny bit of cereal, having to hold hands when walking anywhere, wanting the blue cup and not the red one etc etc), so I pick the battles I want to fight and try to preempt them from happening. I have to remind myself that nothing lasts forever and this will be over before I know it (at least I bloody well hope so), oh and I do all my supermarket shopping online now.