Wow, I thought tantrums only started at the age of two. Or maybe my daughter is just exceptionally gifted in the art of explosive tantrums. Maybe her red hair has something to do with it, because Mia is mastering the skill of tantrums well ahead of two.
I can describe this month as the best and also the worst month I’ve had with Mia so far. I have been beaten down by tantrums, exhausted trying to figure out what she wants, horrified by her total lack of fear of heights and her absolute fascination with dangerous, sharp objects. With that being said, I cried myself to sleep more than once this month; those tears that only come when you have been pushed so far beyond your point of exhaustion that tears are the only thing in your body that still works (or so it feels).
On the other hand, I’ve never had more fun with my darling Mia. This month, she produced a whole new vocabulary. In her own special way, she can let me know that she loves cheese but can’t stand onions. She prefers a sausage over minced meat, and if she had to choose between chicken or beef it would always be chicken. I now know how she likes her juice. If I try to dilute it, she will remind me that she’s not stupid! She can very accurately ask for tea or water or juice or milk. She wants what she wants and will not be convinced otherwise. She has a certain routine in the morning and don’t you dare mess with that routine; she will definitely let you know. As long as we stick to the plan in HER head, all is fine. What a challenge! Mia likes her porridge in a white porcelain bowl. Don’t you dare give her a plastic bowl, that’s for babies! She likes to carry it to the table by herself and sit on the chair by herself and eat it by herself. I’ve tried to fight with her, but in vain. She wants what she wants and that’s that!
I’ve learned this month that you’ve got to choose the battles you fight, especially with a strong-willed child like Mia. She has never dropped a porcelain bowl, so I’ve decided to let go of my idea of what I believe is good for her. We have certain rules and we stick to them, but with my wilful redhead I let her experience the things that are not detrimental to her emotional or physical health. If her mind is set on eating by herself, even though it’s messy, I let her be. The alternative is me trying to force her to be fed while she is screaming the roof off and refusing to take a bite. A messy, happy toddler is far better in my books than a clean, unhappy one.
I’ve also learned to give her options while still pursuing the activity I want her to do. For example, if she makes a fuss about getting dressed, I’ll show her two items of clothing and let her choose which one she would like to wear. The aim is to get dressed. I don’t care what she wears, but if she gets to choose she feels empowered and satisfied that her voice was heard. End of tantrum. I get what I want and she gets what she wants. It works for us and eliminates a great deal of fighting.
Another example: Mia doesn’t like to be interrupted during play to take a bath. So, before bath time I’ll structure our play activity so that we can continue to play in the tub. That way, when it’s time for her bath, I can move the activity she’s busy with to the bathroom without a fuss. Adding water to play is way more fun and she usually complies without a scene. Brushing teeth is another one of those I-have-to-force-you-to-do-it activities. What works for us, is brushing our teeth together. Whatever I do, Mia will copy, and then I just do a quick quality control afterwards. Making faces at each other in the mirror works fabulously. As soon as she sticks out her tongue, I quickly go in for a scrub or two. Toddlers know just as much what they want as teenagers do – that I’ve learned the hard way.
MommaMia Tip: Find creative ways to get your toddler to do what you need her to do. Engaging her in play is very helpful, fun and much less exhausting than fighting and reasoning. Have fun playing!