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Why your toddler Isn’t having a tantrum

There are huge cognitive and behavioural development changes constantly going on for toddlers, at a faster pace than any other time in our lives.

Many of you may read this wondering what on earth I am talking about. ‘Of course they are having a tantrum! They are behaving irrationally and being generally difficult! Throwing themselves on the floor and/or acting like a small wild animal’ 

It’s just, that is from your perspective as an adult, and our children aren’t even operating in the same brainwave state as us until 7/8 years old.

Don’t get me wrong, I have a 2 year old. I understand, really I do. I have experienced ‘meltdowns’ because I needed to go to the loo (nothing to do with him needing it instead, he just didn’t want me to go), or because the dog ate the food he was being given (the wonderful, amazing, ever tolerant dog).

What I am proposing though, is that we are mindful of the negative connotations these labels can have, (tantrums, whinging, whining etc) and how that may instantly affect our perception and response to the situation. Perhaps we could rephrase…

Instead of ‘tantrum’, perhaps we could say, ‘having difficulty processing strong emotions, (e.g. disappointment or sadness).  Instead of ‘whinging’ we could maybe say, ‘having difficulty with acceptance’, or whatever best defines the individual situation. 

These moments, where we can feel exasperated and feel the need to control the situation in some way, it is important to first recognise that in ourselves, and in that moment to become mindful, to breathe, and to consciously question that need. 

Does the situation really need control or does it need connection, empathy and understanding? Do we need to tell them what to do, or roll our eyes at them, or do we need to model a better way to behave?

Is the need to control something ingrained from our own childhood? Was it something we learned from our parents? From school? From work? Is that something you actually want in this world that you get to consciously create with your child? 

Because that is the profound opportunity that our children bring us. To recreate our entire world if that is what we want to do, what we choose to do. But we have to consciously choose to break the paradigm, to leave our old patterns of behaviour behind to create new ones and new beliefs with them. Yes this is easier said than done, just because something is simple does not mean it is easy, but it is ultimately so worth it.

You can always take time to take three breaths, in slowly through the nose and out through the mouth, trying to make your out breath slightly longer than the in breath.

And in that space you gain a different perspective. It instantly lowers your blood pressure and brings you back to the present awareness. You bring yourself down to your Childs level. You get in touch with your own feelings and intuition.

You realise that actually it’s quite a big deal really wanting something for the first time and realising that you can’t take it with you, or having to leave somewhere before you feel ready to, or to just not know how you feel or what you really want. Actually then you may realise that they are quite tired, maybe they didn’t have a good night sleep last night, maybe they are hungry or they just weren’t ready to leave as they were investigating or learning something new for them.

These are all big feelings for tiny people especially when they are still learning about their emotions and haven’t yet developed impulse control or emotional intelligence. These are things that are fostered and that we learn from example and our own experience.

Do you remember what it was like for you as a teenager? Were you confused, upset, angry, frustrated, overwhelmed but you didn’t know why? Uncomfortable in your body, pains in strange places? You didn’t know how to communicate with people or even what some of your emotions were called? Hormones coursing through your body that you didn’t yet know how to control?

There are huge cognitive and behavioural development changes constantly going on for toddlers, at a faster pace than any other time in our lives. From 0-3 we make 700 synaptic connections per second! Can you conceive how much processing is going on in their heads?! This is why it takes them so long to wind down or go to sleep, it’s really exciting learning about the world, the first time you see or experience something, information is whizzing around your head, you’ve very nearly learned to climb something in a different way or figured out how to say something else, you’re internal organs are starting to develop in a different way and you are becoming more bodily and socially aware. 

It is totally natural for children to need our help to feel safe by validating their emotions, helping them identify and learn from them and for them to crave parental comfort and closeness. It is in fact fundamental to our emotional development. 

We all need connection, society proves it with the amount of adults with addiction issues, wether it be to food, alcohol, drugs, shopping, social media or negative thought processes. Addiction is the opposite of connection. 

We, as parents, are responsible for teaching our children how to behave and respond to every situation they encounter and we do that through our own behaviour. We can choose to model kindness, empathy and compassion in every moment.

If we apologise for our own behaviour when we react on impulse instead of responding with integrity, name and explain what we are feeling and how we would have preferred to act, then we are helping our children not only to feel validated and understood, but we are showing them that they are not alone, and by modelling a better way to behave and get through these difficult moments, we lead by example.

It is important to note, that we as adults sometimes have difficulty with processing our emotions too. And that is ok. It’s ok to not get it right all the time. We are all human and that is part of our experience. 

Words are powerful and can not be unheard. But that is our choice. And our responsibility. The future generation of society is literally in our hands. 

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