Toddler Tantrums – and Why?

I am sure if you are a parent reading this who has a child between the ages of 1 and 5 you have likely experienced some form of challenging behaviour from your toddler.  For me this seems to be almost an everyday thing lately with my youngest Amelia which I never experienced with my first 2.   I mean, I know that siblings despite being raised in the same environment tend to possess different personalities and temperaments, but wow does my miss Millie ever seem to have a very different temperament from Paige and Nate.  So many nights I would go to bed thinking to myself, how could have things run more smoothly, or how could I have done things different, or reacted differently, and the most important question I always ask myself, what is she trying to tell me from her behaviour?  After a solid month of full blown tantrums trying multiple different strategies that I researched on the famous “Dr. Google” with little luck, I remembered that Ren and I bought a book called Happiest Toddler on the Block by Harvey Karp MD.  We bought the book several years ago after we found his book Happiest Baby on the Block to be very helpful.  We never got around to reading it, probably because we didn’t feel the need to. So there I was feeling very excited having found the book and began reading it only to discover that Harvey recommends reading the book when your child is 18 months old so you can start to implement the strategies early on.   I thought to myself Amelia is 3! – I don’t stand a chance…ugh.  Anyway I kept reading and within the first chapter I was already starting to feel relieved simply learning that most of Mille’s behaviours are quite normal for her age.  In chapter 1 of the book – Toddler Basics, Harvey highlights the 4 big struggles of a toddler.

#1 Our modern world is weird to them.

Harvey suggests that our homes can be too stimulating.  With all the bright colours, newest toys that move and make a lot of noise, cartoons and kids shows with intense animation, and video games, a toddler can feel quite stressed.

#2 Their brains are out of balance.

Well this seems pretty obvious.  This relates to how our brains are split into two halves, a right and left side.  The left side being more thoughtful, logical and calm, while our right side is more impulsive and irrational.  Well surprise, surprise, for a toddler the right side of their brain has more power.

#3 Their normal development can make them misbehave.

This speaks to how toddlers have very short attention spans, are rigid with limited flexibility and only want to focus on their own needs.  What I found most helpful in understanding this point is that toddlers simply cannot help but push boundaries.  Harvey says that toddlers learn about the world by touching, pushing, and exploring just about anything.  Although we may feel that our toddler is being defiant by touching something we just told them 1000 times not to, to them we are preventing them how Harvey words it, their “greatest joy – discovery.”

#4 Their temperaments Can make them overreact.

This highlights how children either fall under 3 temperaments Easy, Shy and Spirited and how each temperament can cause a child to react differently to situations.  Easy being resilient, easy going and can tolerate new situations without too much fuss.  Shy being more cautious and observant, and spirited being more active, impatient and impulsive.  I’m pretty sure I know what temperament Amelia has…

After reading only the first chapter, I had so much more insight on just what is happening in Amelia’s little brain.  Now knowing about the the 4 struggles of a toddler, I finally have more guidance on how to react to her.  Now you are probably wondering are there any specific strategies on how to deal with tantrums?  Yes!!  In the book Harvey goes on to give several strategies that help.  I will have to post this in a later blog as I have just recently started trying these strategies with Amelia, and it takes a lot of practice so I don’t want to share my experiences until I become better at implementing them.  Good news – it has  been working so far.  Yay!

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