Sunday, June 2, 2013

Reasons My Two Year Olds Cry - Sometimes at the Same Time

For those of us with young children at home, the number of times our children cry - over what seem to us to be small things - can be quite overwhelming. My boys went through a period of a few months having temper tantrums and crying over everything. I mean everything. Many times I was never able to figure out what it was they were crying over. I could not even count the number of tantrums we had in one day.

With two toddlers, I think the number of tantrums does not multiply by two, but is exponentially greater. The outbursts of one affect the other and the result is much more than double the tantrums you would experience with one.

There were a few rather miserable months.

Fortunately, it seems we have turned a corner and the temper tantrums are far fewer and more easily managed. (Of course, the moment I post this, I expect to have a resurgence of temper tantrums.)

While in the midst of the temper tantrum stage, it is easy to become frustrated. It is hard work to try to figure out just what that child is crying about, again, and how to help him through his feelings and teach him proper responses. It is easy to become annoyed and disregard our children's feelings.

I was beginning to be frustrated by the constant crying and temper tantrums. As an outlet for my frustration, so as to not direct it at my boys, I began to make a list of the reasons they would cry. Every day, I was able to add another reason. Or two. Or three.

In writing down the reasons they cried, my frustration was somewhat alleviated. I was able to go back through the list and laugh about the reasons from the day or two before. I was not laughing at my children, or belittling their feelings. I take my boys' feelings very seriously. When they are upset by something, even something that seems silly to me, it is not a laughing matter. Their feelings are legitimate and valid. 

I was able to laugh because it now was endearing to me. It was cute. Yes, it was cute. Of course, while they were kicking and screaming and trying to throw chairs across the room, it was anything but cute. Yet, in looking back, I was able to see their personality coming through. Their likes and dislikes. Their opinions and desires. No, they were not expressing them appropriately, but it is my job to teach them how to express their desires and opinions in a proper way. A two year old has a very limited vocabulary and has not developed the ability to express their feelings well. This is usually why they throw tantrums. (How many adults do you know that can express their feelings well? And yet, we expect our toddlers to do so. Or, worse yet, we expect them to not express their feelings at all.)

For those of you who are going through a temper tantrum stage, or have survived one, or have not yet experienced one, here is a list of some of the reasons my two year olds cry. This is by no means an exhaustive list. I picked out some of the "highlights" of the list. My purpose is to encourage you through your child's temper tantrum stage. Yes, it is perfectly normal and other children are crying and screaming over the same things as your child. And yes, there is an end to it -- though I did not believe that a month ago. Please be encouraged as you read through the list. Allow yourself to rejoice that your child is attempting to communicate with you, however poorly he may be doing so.

Reasons my two year olds cry - sometimes at the same time:

  1. The plastic ball does not open.
  2. The neighbor's dog is not outside.
  3. There are tears in his eyes from crying. (One of the boys frequently cries over the fact that he has tears in his eyes.)
  4. The fire engines were not outside when we passed by the fire station.
  5. He couldn't ride the motorcycle we passed.
  6. He wasn't allowed to mow the lawn.
  7. We had to come inside for dinner.
  8. We couldn't take the rattle out of the ball.
  9. The local church bells were not ringing.
  10. His milk was not in his hand the instant he asked for it.
  11. The bus drove away.
  12. His food was too hot (though it had been sitting there for 10 minutes).
  13. He wasn't allowed to drink the drips of iced tea in the container that had been sitting in the recycle bin for a week.
  14. He was told to sit in his chair for dinner.
  15. The stray cat walked out of the yard.
  16. He had his hands wiped clean after lunch.
  17. His yogurt, that came straight out of the fridge, was too hot.
  18. He had to come inside after being out for only an hour.
  19. He wanted the toy car he just threw down the steps.
  20. He didn't want the bite of food he just asked for.
  21. The item he wanted did not magically appear in his hand the second he thought of it.
  22. He wanted to eat.
  23. He didn't want to eat.
  24. He wasn't allowed to use the vacuum.
  25. He didn't get more food when he wanted it (even though he had a full plate).
  26. He drank all of his milk.
  27. His brother was drinking his milk.
  28. The moon was not out at noon.
  29. He couldn't wear his fire truck shirt for a third day in a row.
  30. His brother got to wear the fire truck shirt.
  31. He wasn't allowed to play in the unfinished basement.
  32. He didn't want to sit in his car seat.
  33. I wouldn't take the bulb out of a flashlight so he could play with it.
  34. He wanted his shoe on - the one he just took off.
  35. He couldn't ride the bus.
  36. The neighbor took a power tool into his garage and he couldn't see what he was doing with it in there.
  37. He didn't have a long enough turn in the shopping cart.
  38. I wouldn't unlock the dishwasher controls so he could play with them.
  39. He couldn't ride the neighbor's truck.
  40. The garbage truck drove away.
  41. I wouldn't give him the food off my plate (he had the exact same food on his own plate).
  42. We drove past the lake and he could no longer see it.
  43. I wouldn't put him down for a nap after he had just had one.
  44. The whale in his cousin's elementary school play left the stage.
  45. He wasn't allowed to drive the van.
  46. We didn't have any bananas.
  47. I didn't want my jacket zipped. (Read that again -- I didn't want my jacket zipped.)
  48. He couldn't ride the tractor.
  49. He wanted to be held exactly half a second after wiggling off my lap.
  50. He couldn't see the airplane.  

These are some of the reasons my boys throw temper tantrums and cry. To them, these things are very important. I want to respect that and help them learn how to express their needs, desires, likes and dislikes in an appropriate way.

When I began to look at their tantrums as attempts to communicate their feelings, rather than seeing them as being naughty or willful, it changed the way I responded. I believe that was the beginning of the end of their tantrums. Of course, we will still have tantrums now and then, but we can sometimes get through a day without a single temper tantrum. That is something I never would have dreamed of a few weeks ago.

1 comment:

Erin said...

Very good insights that will help a lot of people, even me, since 4 and 6 year olds still throw temper tantrums. Actually, I still throw them occasionally...ahem. Maybe my husband needs to read it to understand me better! Ha! Great job writing about a tough stage of parenting!