I want to share something from our morning, especially for parents of "whiny" and "fit-throwing" independently minded toddlers. This is my *very* independent, 21 month old daughter, happily eating a new-ish food.
That's actually really hard sometimes, getting Madeleine to eat new things. "Stuff" on toast has been a battle. (Weird, I know. Jam on toast is awesome.) She's had it on and off, but never very successfully. Today, after much prodding and careful questioning, she decided she would like toast for breakfast. I asked her if she wanted to try jam on her toast. She enthusiastically said yes. When I brought her her toast, she had a small fit. Whining, flapping her little hands, yelling "no no no!!!" I asked again, "Madeleine, you said you wanted toast, with jam. This is toast. Would you like toast?" She tearfully replied, "YES!" I sat down next to her and offered the toast again. She hesitantly reached for it, getting jam on her fingers and began to cry. I put two and two together at that point. She didn't want sticky fingers, can you blame her? I wiped her hands and explained that I would be happy to wipe them whenever she liked, if she'd eat her toast please. I again asked her to "try bites". She finally did, and she loved it!
Frequently, I read articles and blog posts about not letting children "manipulate" with tantrums. I hear to punish this behavior, or ignore her when she behaves that way. I submit another way. Perhaps, and I know I'm not the first to suggest this, tantrums are frustration at the inability to explain. Let's look at it another way. Many of us have tried to learn a new language, for example I speak very limited Spanish. Whenever I try to explain something, I frequently can't find the right words. I'm still learning. Sometimes, I get flustered and frustrated. Now if I, as an adult, get frustrated when I can't express what I'm trying to say, can you imagine what it might feel like for a toddler? If we keep that feeling in mind, and attempt patience in dealing with tantrums, our little ones will learn that we hear them and are willing to help them. If we punish, ignore, or lose our tempers with them, what are they learning? Not love, patience, or nurturing.
Breakfast today was not a quick event. It took us probably 20 minutes to work through it all before we ate. Seeing the look of trust and happiness on Madeleine's face made it all worth it. I know that it can be hard. I know that frustrated, bubbly-anger feeling that can boil up when your sweet angel is thrashing around like a little demon. If we can just remember to look at it through our child's eyes, it may be easier to get through the tantrum and back to the happy.