There’s a reason why they named this stage of life the “terrible twos.” My toddler doesn’t have tantrums much, but when she does, that little hint of spice is definitely adding some razzle-dazzle to our life as parents.
Tantrums are tough, but they are teaching me so much.
I believe there’s a lot we can all learn about ourselves from how our children show up in the world. If you’re curious, below I’m sharing what toddler tantrums are teaching me about myself. Hopefully there’s common ground you see reflected in the way you operate and interact with your toddler too. Or if you’ve been here, I’m curious to read some wisdom you can share in the comments to help us all navigate through this spicy phase of life.
7 things toddler tantrums are teaching me about myself:
1. I can be attached to my phone.
I didn’t realize how often I pick up my phone until I noticed a correlation between my toddler acting out to get attention as a result. I’m constantly on my phone checking my emails, replying to messages, working, scrolling on my Instagram, or answering video calls. My toddler doesn’t like that. I noticed at times she competes for my attention by getting louder when I’m talking on the phone, throwing a fit, or even directly asking me to put my phone down to play with her. It’s definitely a reality check and gives me pause to be more intentional about how often I’m on my phone, keeping it in another room, as well as considering why I’m on it and if it can wait. Because 9/10 times, it can wait.
2. My “me time” is mandatory.
I don’t know about you, but my “me time” is mandatory. I think everyone’s “me time” should be mandatory. I know I can’t start my day giving, giving, giving to everyone else before I pour into myself first. I like waking up on my own and before everyone else to get my quiet time first. And when the day is done, I also like having a period at night to recharge.
“Me time” for me looks like having quiet time to grow spiritually, do some journaling, nourish and take good care of myself, listen to chillhop music, light candles, pray, or meditate, etc. Burnout is real. When I don’t allow myself the time (even if it’s just 30 minutes) to fill up my cup before giving to everyone else, I get cranky. I mope around in resistance. I don’t have the energy to play with my toddler as usual or to give her the kind of attention I would normally, and as a result, she acts out. And it’s only because I don’t have much left to give the good parts of me. It can all be avoided if I keep my morning and bedtime routine sacred. I have to pour into myself in order to function properly and avoid tantrums. What is that saying, happy wife, happy life. I’m finding this is true for motherhood too.
3. I work best with schedules.
I don’t know about you, but if I don’t know what I need to focus on for the day, things can go sideways. I mull. I lollygag. I really struggle with knowing what to do with my day sometimes if some parts are not already thought out — and my toddler struggles too if I don’t have a plan for her. I’m not saying I have to plan out every single detail, but at best I need to know 2-3 major objectives I intend to accomplish for the day. It can be as simple as having a play date scheduled (I loved Peanut for this when I needed to make mom friends), knowing what we’re going to eat for the day, planning to do X amount of laundry, or giving myself X amount of time to focus on a specific project during nap time. If I don’t, I notice I’m not able to be all-in or fully present when there’s not a plan in place because my mind is going a mile a minute thinking of all the things. It’s better when I know I can focus on ABC during this time and XYZ during this window instead of just leaving everything all up to chance.
4. I lean on going out as a “get out of jail free card.”
Sometimes when I’m burnt out and stay-at-home mommying, I find it easy to just go shopping, go out to eat, or take my child to the playground so I won’t have to come up with something fun to do together at home. Sometimes I don’t have the energy for all of that. Going out buys us at best a quick 1-2 hours of “doing something,” and if we go to the store and get a toy, that buys us even more entertainment time when we get home. I don’t know if that’s a good thing, bad habit, or what, but I definitely use going out as a “get out of jail free card” sometimes when days are long or when things get tough. Sometimes you have to do what you have to do. Whatever works for you.
5. I’m busy.
These days it seems like I’m busier than ever. Not just in reality, but also in how much time I spend thinking about work too. I realize I can be so focused on work that sometimes I’m not being fully present (mentally, physically, and emotionally) as a mom. Sometimes I could be playing with my toddler, but I think about other responsibilities like what needs to be cleaned, who I need to follow up with, checking my phone/email, upcoming deadlines, content ideas, or my career as a whole.
6. I could listen more.
At times, when a tantrum is brewing, I notice it’s a result of me reacting and trying to gain control over a situation rather than listening to or hearing out what my toddler has to say at that moment. For example, one day I gave up my toddler’s seat to a stranger who wanted it since my toddler could sit with me. But that didn’t blow over well because I didn’t consider what my toddler wanted at that moment. Another instance was when I took soap away from my toddler because she was going overboard in using it. Instead of reacting, I could’ve listened to and understood that all she was trying to do was practice independence. Of course I’m the grown up in the situation and I know better, but some moments like that show me that I could listen more rather than react to every little thing.
7. We all just want to be loved.
At the end of the day, we all have emotions we’re trying to navigate through daily. I try my best to be patient, help my toddler label how she’s feeling, and validate her emotions. I know ultimately she acts out sometimes because she really and actually just wants my full, undivided attention or she just wants to be heard. We all just want to be loved. At this young age she’s trying to figure out how to ask for what she ultimately wants, but obviously doesn’t always know how, especially if tantrums and acting out are quick ways to immediately get me to stop whatever I’m doing. It’s a learning experience for us both.
I’m finding that motherhood is just one big journey of learning how to navigate and work with each other. I’m learning how to be more attentive and be more of the mom that my toddler needs. I’m also working on helping her learn how to respect me as her guardian as well as establish healthy boundaries so she can thrive within our home and out in the world.