Week 1 Lesson
Mac 'n cheese. PB & J. Toddlers and tantrums. Likely, these are regular pairings in your parenting world these days, age-appropriate constants you may think you have minimal control over. But while conquering your child's picky mealtime proclivities is for another article entirely, tackling his or her regular meltdowns sure is on the menu during year two.
Why tantrums, though? You're certainly not the only Mom or Dad whose child's seemingly unpredictable screaming jags eat away at their parental confidence—and their otherwise peaceful, productive time spent with their toddler. To begin to understand why children start pitching regular fits shortly after their first birthdays, you need to reflect on your first year together. When your child was an infant, you indulged him in every way possible. He was hungry, you fed him. He fussed, you sussed out what was wrong (a dirty diaper, a new tooth, too much stimulation) and took speedy action to remedy it. You did all of this because you know infants lack the capacity to tolerate any delay in gratification: They want what they want—now! Besides, baby needs and wants are reasonable.
But in his second year, especially around month 18, some of his demands will appear completely unreasonable. For example, he'll just have eaten two cookies and will be reaching for another, so you take the plate away. Horrifically insulted, he'll likely respond with a tantrum. If he had the omniscience (and vocabulary), he might say, "What is this, Mom? You fed me whenever I wanted just a year ago—how dare you stop now? I expect to eat all the cookies I want!"
Should you give in, allow another cookie? No. As piercing as his reaction might be, stand your ground. Your toddlers will be able to survive the disappointment, even if it won't happen peacefully—this time.
Week 1 Project
Count how many tantrums your child has a day and keep track of how long they last. (Consider keeping a small notebook, or use a notes function on your smartphone or PDA; you'll be revisiting this and other lists to come.) After all seven weeks of this temper tantrum course, notice how your child's tantrums change in frequency and duration. The goal is that by age three, your child will exhibit no more than two tantrums a week—by then, they may have dropped out of sight entirely, both on account of your child's developmental stage and the consistency with which you've responded to them.