A Letter to the Parents of Tantruming Toddlers

Dear Parents of Tantruming Toddlers,

Before life as a parent, you, like me, probably witnessed at least one child having a major meltdown in a public place. You, like many people, may have thought to yourself, “That will never be me. My future children will never act that way.”

Perhaps you thought you’d be so tough and intimidating that your child would never dare to act up like that. Or maybe you figured you’d be such a loving, compassionate parent that your kids would be connected and well-behaved and you’d never have to suffer through a public tantrum.

I’ve got some bad news and some good news for you: Sometimes you will be the one who has to drag a screaming child out of the library, grocery store, wherever. Sometimes, much to your dismay, it will be you whose child is melting down because they can’t have the toy or it’s time to go.

Sometimes you will have to protect yourself from kicks and smacks while you try to zip them into their coat so you can make it home for nap time. Sometimes you’ll leave the house and forget the snacks and you won’t realize until it’s too late. Or your toddler won’t sleep well for a week and it’ll make everything a million times more difficult, despite your best efforts.

Sometimes they will scream all the way home and you will forget what you love so much about this job.

Stay strong. Take deep breaths, try to smile, and welcome the empathetic glances from others.

You are not alone. We have all been there. Every single one of us.

It’s not because we’re crappy moms and it’s not because we have rotten kids.

Despite popular opinion that “kids these days” are spoiled brats who cry because they’re used to getting everything they want, there are actually a few valid reasons why toddlers have tantrums. Often it has to do with the desperate need for a nap or a snack. But it also involves brain development.

Kids freak out because they’re kids, because their brains are not fully developed. They do not have impulse control or emotional regulation.

A tantrum is a distressed brain. A tantrum is your child’s disappointment and frustration escalating to a point where they are powerless to bring it back down. A tantrum is normal. Unfortunate, but a normal part of toddlerhood.

And the good news is: it’s a phase. Your child’s brain will continue to develop and they will gain emotional regulation and impulse control. They will grow and mature, so that one day, instead of crying and hitting when it’s time to leave, they will simply say “ok.”

Focus on patience. Smile even when you don’t want to. Resist the urge to match your toddler’s feelings. Practice peaceful parenting. Don’t punish for big feelings. Remember the golden rule: treat others how you’d like to be treated (even– especially– your kids).

Toddlerhood is a notoriously tough time, and for good reason. If you can make it through it with compassionate patience, everyone will come out better on the other side.

A Letter to the Parents of Tantruming Toddlers
Image: Bethany King

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