How to Extinguish Toddler Tantrums with Love and Mindfulness
photo credit: Dainty Blue Photography
For several months now I’ve been using exercise, yoga and meditation to reduce my stress levels and feel more peace in my life. During my sessions and right after I feel happy, healthy and in an overall great state of mind. However, I have noticed that as I continue with my day, encountering traffic, dealing with tantrums and plans going astray, the benefits begin to evaporate.
Just last week my son had a legendary 30-minute tantrum, when we were leaving the park. He was in hysterics and even gasping for air between his inconsolable cries. He needed a new diaper but squirmed and kicked in protest as I attempted to change him. After dodging kicks and almost injuring my back, I decided to put him in the car seat and change him at home. The ride was only 15 minutes anyway. As soon as I began putting him in his seat, he started to protest. I struggled to get him in, but it didn’t end there. He continued his fight throughout our drive home, shrieking loudly and kicking his legs. Tears threatened to fall from the brim of my eyes. I quickly wiped them away, as I tried to focus on driving. I felt my jaw tighten and my body stiffen, as stress and tension took over.
The episode continued even after we got home, and by the end of it, my energy was depleted and I felt emotionally and physically exhausted. I started to wonder if my wellness efforts were for nothing. If I couldn’t sustain the benefits outside of the sessions and throughout my day, what was the point? I had a chat about it with my coach and friend. Just through conversation, I came to the realization myself. A good coach, doesn’t tell you the answers, but facilitates the process of you finding them on your own.
I needed to transfer the strategies that I was learning in my sessions to my daily life. The sessions were giving me the tools, but I had to put them into practice. Later that day at bedtime, my son was acting out because he wanted to watch television instead of going to bed. After a few minutes of back and forth with him, I started to feel tension building and got to the point where I wanted to scream “JUST GO TO BED.” I remembered my conversation with my coach, and was able to turn the situation around. I told my son that Mommy was starting to feel stressed and angry. I told him that I didn’t want to scream at him because that’s not respectful, and neither of us like it. I asked him what I should do! In a moment of maturity and clarity, he told me I should take a deep breath, just like I have taught him to do when he feels angry (clearly, we are both still working on this). I said that I needed some help and asked him to take some deep breaths with me. We took 3 deep breaths together. Then, I thanked him for helping me to calm down. He gave me a big hug and let me put him to bed with our regular routine.
I’m not certain that this method would work every-time. But in that instance, it did. It felt much better than losing my temper and screaming at my child, which usually results in ill feelings all around and especially guilty feelings for me. My goal is to always try this in tough moments, with or without the kids. I realize now that it’s a much better example to them than losing my temper. If I'm an adult having tantrums, how could I expect my toddlers to keep calm? I’m learning coping mechanisms for my own emotions and teaching them the same. I’m so grateful for this enlightenment. I’m not anywhere near perfect, and have lost my temper a few times since. But it’s a work in process that could only end in more peace, love and happiness in our family life.
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