I have been dealing with tantrums en masse lately, its been rather disorienting because I am entirely still new to this. The triplets are getting older and learning to exert their will more and more everyday. And I am not even that great at dealing with tantrums from my eldest daughter yet. Its been a huge learning process and if this was a hands-on toddler anger management course, I’m probably being graded at B-.
From the beginning, I have been a believer and follower of Janet Lansbury’s methods of managing toddler tantrums. I don’t think the method originated with her and I don’t know the history of it very well, but its tied with the whole attachment parenting movement. But Janet Lansbury is one of the leading voices at the moment in encouraging parents to validate, rather than ignore toddler tantrums. This method encourages that parents empathise with toddlers when they throw tantrums by acknowledging their negative emotions, teaching them how to identify and convey these emotions, and then using gentle but firm creative reasoning to calm and soothe the tantrums. All without giving in to the child (which will shape entitled children) and without ignoring the child entirely (which will create adults who become emotionally unfulfilled). She believes in the long run this will make for empathetic individuals and children who will learn to self-regulate their emotions because they have been validated (as opposed to acting them out at others all the time).
I think the problem with these parents how-to guides is the basic arch and methodology sounds perfect and yes, of course I want to a way to help my toddler shut down her tantrums without hurting her feelings and teaching her to also self-regulate her emotions positively. And the examples they provide sound awesome and do-able. But the real-life application is HARD and met with failure more times than success. For one I come with my own emotional and social baggage from the way I was raised, and managing that to be this more positive parent was the first and hardest hurdle I had to cross, and then I had to learn how to use more appropriate and positive vocabulary when all I know growing up and as an adult is negative vocabulary. So its been tough all round.
I am not willing to give up though because I value the process and the intentions. I really believe so much of our communications as adults today, especially in our personal relationships, is stemmed from the way we were raised. I came from a family that enjoys screaming and being passive aggressive. My parents and siblings have taught me that if you want something, you scream for it or you throw a passive aggressive tantrum. So my father may be 60 plus years old today but his choice method in getting us to take note of his frustrations continue to be screaming and passive aggressiveness. It sounds very immature of a 60 year old but that will be me in another 30 years if I don’t do something about it now.
But I think its beginning to bear some fruit. Livia has been able to identify some emotions (not all yet) like afraid and angry and she’s been vocalising her tantrums more and more everyday as her vocabulary improves rather than resorting to whining and mysterious crying. There are just as many times though when we have no clue what she wants because we don’t really understand her sometimes, so I feel the methods can be tricky when your toddler is not very expressive. It is like that with babies when more times than not you are uncertain why they are crying after you have given milk and changed their diapers. And the only thing you can do is soothe them by caring for them. And of course even trickier when you have multiples and have to figure out to how to soothe everyone all at once.
So I am still figuring things out and hopefully it will get better with time.