Before I had children I was certain I wouldn’t have one of those children — two in my particular case — who would fall to the floor in a heap of screams and tears, especially in public. I didn’t even know that a small human was capable of yelling, crying, and hitting their head simultaneously until I became a mom.
After we had our little ones, we watched other parents around us dealing with tantrums and we would silently commend ourselves for raising such amazing children who didn’t have outbursts. I was humbled when we hit the stage of toddler tantrums around the time our twins were two and a half years old.
One difference I noticed with my friends that have singletons, or even children that were a few years apart, was that they were dealing with one child at a time. They could focus all of their energy and attention on one child. How on earth do you handle toddler tantrums when you have more than one child of the same age?
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Six months later we are still dealing with these little tirades, but they are getting less frequent and less volatile. As we continue to master the art of keeping our little ones calm, and ourselves in the process, I have found four tips that keep the tantrums manageable while embracing the opportunity to show our kids how much we love them even when we don’t love their behavior.
1. Step Back and Breathe
Unless your children are injuring themselves, or could possibly injure themselves, take a moment to step back and assess the situation. What’s going on right now? Which child needs you more right now? If the answer is both of them or all of them, try to situate yourself in between them so you can reach and touch everyone.
This is when I have to remind myself to breathe so I don’t escalate along with my babies. If you have one child that runs away just try to focus on the one that stays next to you. When one of my twins sees me consoling their sibling that’s all it usually takes for them to want attention as well.
Once I have everyone sitting on or near me we all huddle together and just breathe. There is really no point in talking to them yet. I am just trying to get everyone calm while giving them some much needed cuddles. I think sometimes this is more for me than it is for them, but it really helps us all. After we are relaxed and composed then I talk to them. The key is setting the stage so you can communicate with your babies.
2. Assess the Source of the Tantrum
I notice that my children are more prone to tantrums if they are tired, schedules have changed, they’re hungry, or they are having a day when they need more attention than normal.
My daughter is a creature of habit and she feels more secure when she knows what to expect in her day. If I mess with that plan and add in a hungry little girl, the result is an ear-splitting NO that is screamed at the top of her voice.
If she still isn’t getting the attention she is demanding she will take it out on anyone who is closest to her. Unfortunately, that is usually her twin brother who has borne the brunt of her frustration by just being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
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If we have skipped a nap and we are tired, well you might as well stop whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish. It doesn’t matter if it’s a holiday, special occasion, or what have you, it simply will not happen if I have tired babies. Even changing a diaper will become an Olympic event in dexterity and patience.
Try to figure out why your children are attempting to communicate with you, which is essentially what a toddler tantrum is at the core. Two year olds don’t have the communication capability to ask for help. It’s up to us to decipher the code.
3. Set yourself up for success
There are days that I forget how the world must look to my children. If I wake up late and need to hurry to try to get to work and school on time I start to rush the morning routine. What my children see is mommy not being as available for snuggle time in bed as we start our day. Mommy is barking orders instead of singing the theme song to their favorite show.
Suddenly my twins are exploding, refusing to get dressed, brush their teeth, or even eat. I lose my patience and look at the clock again to evaluate how my day will be affected by our delay. I have to remind myself how my toddlers are responding to the environment I made for them.
We will run late, I will forget lunches, and I will forget that important document for the meeting I will be the last one to show up to. In an effort to circumvent those situations, I spend the last part of the evening prepping for my day ahead. A few minutes of effort on my part often leads to a higher likelihood of success for the next day.
4. Remember it’s temporary
When my son is hitting his head on the floor or the wall and my daughter is melting down simultaneously these are the days I want to run away. Not really run away (ok maybe for a little bit) but there are moments where it can feel like too much for me to handle.
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Occasionally the constant crying, shrieking, non-stop negotiations with the little people and toddler tantrums give me a headache. I know that’s probably a horrible thing to say out loud but it’s true.
When I reach that point I try to remember that there will be a day all too soon where they won’t come to me to fix everything for them. There will be a day when my children won’t run to me first to console them and help them through a problem. I also know that there will be a day when they won’t fit on my lap.
When I remind myself of that I stop for a minute and soak them in. I soak in their smell, the way the feel in my arms, the tightness of their hugs and the intensity of their kisses.
I remind myself of how my heart swells when they tell me they love me with honesty that makes all of the hard work worth it.
It’s hard to keep perspective in the middle of a tantrum, but there’s a reason they go to you. They go to you because you are the fixer of all little people problems. And you’re doing a great job, even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time.
Diana Coleman is a native a Austin, Texas and works in the wholesale electricity market as a market specialist. She is a married mom to 2.5 year old boy/girl twins Chloe and Greyson. She enjoys organizing, reading, and watching movies while secretly fears potty training and getting her little ones to sleep in separate rooms.