Terrible Two Toddler Tantrums Torment Best of Intentions

Benjamin tantrumI never know when Mount Benjamin is going to erupt.

It could happen the moment he wakes up, the second he realizes he’s not getting the lollipop he requested or simply because he wasn’t allowed to throw the light switch as he usually does.

Heck, anything can start a full-scale Benjamin tantrum, and I feel helpless to stop them or make them end sooner than later. I thought my days of hearing my babies cry … and cry … were over now that my sons are four and two. Not quite. And there’s something markedly worse about a toddler tantrum, the sense that I should know precisely the right kind of comfort to offer Benjamin but can’t figure out how.

The parenting books have the answers, of course. Let him cry. Tell him to let all of his emotions out without questions or comments. Time for a time out. Be there to comfort him.

So which is it? And why do none of the above options work as prescribed?

The so-called “Terrible Twos” provides a handy-dandy label for Benjamin. His behavior is age appropriate – the one matter most parenting books agree on is that he’s trying to figure out how to cope with his feelings.

That hardly helps.

Sometimes when Ben is in a full-thrown tantrum I toss aside the experts and just … act. When Ben throws a fit while we drop off Elijah at pre-preschool I might scoop him up and take him out of the building. It feels wrong, and yet somehow right not to bend to Ben’s whims at this moment.

And sometimes the tantrum quickly fades, as if I had stumbled upon the right solution without referencing Dr. Spock or his peer group.

The one lesson I’ve gleaned from it all is to be flexible. Sometimes you should simply whisk your tantrum-throwing toddler out of a situation, particularly in public, and not let his meltdown impact the world around him. Other times, when the setting allows, do all you can to show him love and sympathy.

My one consistent behavior, something that’s oh, so easier said than done, is to keep my composure. I can’t imagine Benjamin will derive any benefit from a synchronized meltdown.

 This too shall pass. Every great baby stage is temporary, as is every lousy one. On those rare days when Ben doesn’t throw a tantrum I wonder if this is the beginning of the end. Then I remember that another, equally exasperating phase could replace it, and I try to love even the worst of the toddler years.

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