We Had a Temper Tantrum Breakthrough! (And here’s what I was doing wrong)

There was a time in the not-so-distant past where I thought my kid was spoiled. If she was told no for *any reason,* she’d have a complete meltdown. It was temper tantrums galore All. The. Time. She’d cry, stomp her feet, start talking back. And let me tell you, she has got quite the attitude for being only two years old…

What Was going on?

As a first-time mom, I didn’t know when to give in and when to say no. I could not figure out why she was always upset. 

Maybe I was giving in too much and she wasn’t familiar with the word ‘no’?

Or maybe I wasn’t holding my ground enough and she thought she could keep pushing and finally get her way?

I had no idea what was I doing to cause these fits that seemed (to me) to happen way more often than other kids her age.

Before I became a mom, I had never so much as babysat a child, other than my younger brother. And even that was for like an hour at a time, if that. I had no idea that kids needed help entertaining themselves at a certain age. And I certainly didn’t realize imagination took encouragement…

I was at a complete loss as to how to cut down on these temper tantrums. I would ask our pediatrician and she’d tell us, “She’s two, it’s how she communicates right now.” Which I know is true, but really, it was happening so often. I’d ask friends and they’d say, “Oh it’s just a phase, it’ll pass.” But I felt like I was drowning in emotions, mine and hers.

Finally… Answers

Then we got her in daycare a couple days a week. Her teachers were raving about her. She was making friends, she would come home and tell us all about her day…

And on her day sheets, the teachers reported that she was always “happy”, “curious”, “cooperative”, “helpful”, “friendly”. And I mean don’t get me wrong, I was totally thrilled to see this but at the same time I was scratching my head like, “Who is she at daycare? Why isn’t she this happy, curious, cooperative, helpful, friendly toddler at home?” I know people say your child is always on their best behavior when they’re away from home, but we couldn’t understand why she rarely ever displayed this behavior around us.

And then it dawned on me… maybe I wasn’t doing enough to help her have fun at home? Maybe I wasn’t showing her how to play independently…. or encouraging it at all. And more importantly, maybe I didn’t even have enough age-appropriate toys or activities for her at home!

Creating the Right Environment

After seeing some pictures of her from school, and hearing about her day from her and the teachers, it was confirmed… At school she was in the *right* environment. She was encouraged to use her imagination, she had age appropriate toys to play with, and the teachers offered age-appropriate activities to keep her busy. At school there are a lot of different things going on and these distractions, and this stimulation kept her happy and entertained.

Of course they do have a bit of a routine to their day, but most of her day is spent with free play activities, learning how to make-believe, exploring textures, colors, shapes, etc. The entire daycare setting was actually developed to keep children occupied with the right activities… brilliant!

Since kids generally don’t know how to do all of these activities without an adult, the teachers would spend the day showing them *how to play*. So there, we found our solution: My husband and I needed to spend more time encouraging her to play and providing the tools she needed to feel stimulated and occupied. She was throwing these temper tantrums as a way to communicate with us.

My daughter really is an amazing kid; bright, funny, & so, so, loving. She, like every other kid, just needs me to help her learn how to play and show her what to play with. These God-awful temper tantrums were happening because she wanted to be active, learning, & growing and she couldn’t do it alone. She didn’t know how yet, she needed my help.

Having The Right Tools

At two years old kids are, typically, fairly independent. They do need supervision and explanation, but they can create weird shapes out of Play-Doh all by themselves or hold crayons and color on paper, or glue cotton balls to plates, once they’re shown how.

Since my husband and I were first-time parents, we didn’t know she could handle Play-Doh or that she could glue cotton balls to anything. Seeing her do these activities in school helped us realize we needed to be seeking out age-appropriate activities for her at home. Blocks and plush toys are just not going to cut it until she’s 10 years old!

So I took some ideas from school and I asked around in a couple of Mom’s FB groups to find out what activities were appropriate for my two year old daughter. I got some really great suggestions! There was so much more that my daughter could do to stay busy (and happy). I just had no idea. Some of the responses I got were:

  • Finger painting
  • Chalk (on a board or outside)
  • Sorting shapes, colors, or coins
  • Lincoln Logs or Magnatiles
  • Legos or Duplos
  • Coloring
  • Art projects with glue

It was really amazing how much her demeanor changed at home once we started encouraging these kinds of activities.

Continue to Evolve

I cannot tell you what a relief it’s been to finally have my daughter’s temper tantrums under control. Of course, she still has the occasional toddler tantrum, we’ll never get rid of those completely, but I am super happy to know more about what my child needs from me so I can make sure she feels happy and continues learning.

We never stop learning

This experience was a huge eye-opener to how complicated parenting actually is. It made me realize how important it is to continue to evolve and learn about my child.

Once you think you’ve got one stage down pat, they go and change! It happens in the blink of an eye. I was so confident that I had learned my daughter’s personality and that I knew exactly what calmed her. But as her emotions change and her mind grows, she needs more than cuddles, rocking, and bum pats. It’s up to me, and my husband, to make sure we’re learning every stage of development so we can help her regulate her emotions. A big part of doing that is matching her age with the right activity level and seeking out ways to continue challenging her.

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