The Mum Diary
Georgia James is back with more stories from the frontline of motherhood. This time she’s dealing with 2 year olds’ tantrums and she may have got it sussed.
You know your parenting skills have gone awry when you look over to see your two-year-old son on the sofa, watching his 11th consecutive episode of Peppa Pig, with the remnants of a Mini Milk* ice lolly dripping down his chin—and it’s only 9:45am.
Welcome to the terrible twos school of parenting.
Having watched three episodes of Supernanny back in 2007, I really thought I was going into this toddler parenting lark with my eyes open. I knew every trick in the book. And by that, I mean I knew about the panacea for all meltdowns and misdemeanours: the naughty step.
What I didn’t know was that there were two glaring holes in my plan.
The first was that I’d apparently missed the memo that states you’re no longer allowed to refer to your child as naughty. Not even when they’re being naughty. And there was me thinking any description that wasn’t prefixed by ‘effing’ was an achievement in an extreme meltdown situation.
Thankfully, a friend assured me it was still possible to make like Supernanny, without inflicting any long term damage on Elliot’s emotional wellbeing. She said the naughty step concept was still going strong but now trading under the moniker of ‘time out’ (good news for those living in a ground floor flat).
It all sounded pretty straightforward: interrupt tantrum by swiftly removing child from scene of crime and place in a different location to calm down and reflect upon their unacceptable behaviour.
But this was where the second, more problematic, flaw in my plan came in. It turns out time out only works if your child understands it is a punishment. Time out goes horribly wrong when your child sees it as a fun game.
And this was the trouble with Elliot. Upon hearing the words “time out”, he couldn’t have looked more gleeful if I was saying it with a big grin on my face while waving a Cadbury Time Out bar tantalisingly in his direction.
To give him credit, he quickly grasped the concept of taking time to reflect on his behaviour. But in his case, it was more like the half time break in a football match—an opportunity to work out where the weak spots were in his tantruming strategy and to think up new tactics for the second half.
As soon as he returned from his thinking corner, nicely rested and refreshed, the hurling, hitting and hysteria would start again, only now with renewed fervour.
During one particularly aggressive book hurling episode a few weeks ago, when the entire Dr Seuss hardback collection was being carefully aimed at the TV, one by one, I finally crumbled. I couldn’t go on like this.
About to be kneecapped by The Cat in the Hat, I was faced with two choices: admonish Elliot with the full force of my wrath, which was by now at boiling point, or make everything nice again in an instant.
I chose the latter. So, just as he was about to fire the children’s classic in my direction, I looked him in the eye and said cheerily, “Biscuit?”
Thirty seconds later, we were cuddled up on the sofa having a lovely time reading—yes, you guessed it—The Cat In The Hat. Of course, I felt terribly guilty for breaking the first rule of toddler parenting (never reward a tantrum) but eclipsing any pangs of shame was the wonderful feeling of Elliot nestling into me, looking up at me with those big blue eyes, one chubby little hand clutching a Hobnob, the other resting gently on my leg.
So ever since then, I have been living by a new parenting motto: choose your battles.
The thing is, two year olds get a bad rap. Branded with the prefix ‘terrible’, like an unofficial ASBO, their reputation precedes them. And when you’re walking out of a packed café, carrying a screaming, purple-faced, scissor-kicking toddler under your arm, you can see why.
But there’s another side to two year olds. A side that is not so well publicised. Behind the tears and tantrums, they are the happiest, most loving and affectionate, cleverest little people you could ever meet. And as the parent of a two year old, you will experience incomparable feelings of joy, love and happiness so intense you’ll be knocked sideways.
Just when you think your patience has reached its absolute limit, and you’re about to do something you might regret, they will surprise you. Whether it’s reciting the alphabet song from start to finish, or flinging their arms around you and giving you a look that says, “Mummy, you are my world”, or kissing their toys goodbye before heading off to nursery, these moments of tenderness are the memories you will cherish forever.
So, I say make the most of them. And if that involves purchasing an emergency stash of Mini Milks, who cares?
* In my defence, it was the white flavour Mini Milk, which I like to think of as the healthy one—it’s just frozen milk, right?