When our toddler channels “The Hulk”, beware of fake tears and high frequency gamma rays

When our toddler is in a good mood, there is nothing sweeter. I can’t get enough of his hugs, kisses, smiles and laughter. But when he is frustrated or upset about something and wants his way, he lashes out with a host of temperamental tricks: mostly non-verbal bitterness, kicks, screams, and protests, with or without tears.

My husband and “Uncle Greg” say our son is channeling his inner “Hulk” when he is at his highest level of toddler rage. And I must admit, I believe he must be channeling something mildly sinister because he works himself up into frenzy, and turns into some little person I barely recognize. It’s amazing (or sometimes a little baffling) how angry kids get over something they really want but can’t have (my seven year old rarely gets enraged but will have a melt down every now and then about something that is really important to him). And as compassionate parents, my husband and I understand how frustrating it is to want something that you can’t have. We also understand that children live in the immediate— that moment is what is most important—and they can’t see past the moment at hand. But…as compassionate of a parent as I try to be, there are times when I have to just stand my ground, “No, you’re not going to have chocolate for breakfast,” no matter how angry you get.

So in circling back to the Bruce Banner/Hulk analogy, our toddler in anticipation of not getting what he wants dabbles with a bit of that ultra high frequency, and attempts to relinquish his gamma rays and spray us with roaring temper, bursting out of this clothes (not literally of course). And just short of turning green (though he often turns red), he gives us a piece of his mind accompanied with pouts, protests, and wrinkled brow. I get it kid, you’re angry, but we have to help you channel that in an entirely different way and at a much lower frequency.

These unpredictable days, in and out of tantrums, one of the things my husband and I work on is giving our child tools to help him deescalate, calm himself naturally and in a healthy way, and shift from a 10 to a 1 without much help from us. And actually as adults, we could use a bit of this deescalating practice ourselves. There are so many unhealthy habits we can develop from an inability to cope with stress and my doctor says that often stems from coping mechanisms we developed and maintain from childhood. We learn or don’t learn how to deal with stress as children, and then we become adults who don’t know how to cope with stress, but that’s an entirely different discussion for a different day.

But back to these toddlers—they are as I’ve said, unpredictable, and some days are a real social-emotional success, and still others are well…not. And with that kind of varying upheaval, it’s difficult to have just one method of dealing with a frustrated little person. Typically during tantrums, we move our two-year-old to a safe space so that he can work out some of his frustration on his own and come to his own peace without relying on us to help him calm down. He has the tools to calm himself, and according to our pediatrician, children as young as infants have the ability to calm themselves, but as parents, we have to get out of the way, guide them and allow them to find their own healthy methods. And that sounds good in theory, but in the everyday of parenting, we are torn between listening to piercing screams and guilt for not helping our child through their stressful moment. I think it’s natural to want to “rescue” your kid and parents shouldn’t beat themselves up about it. But what my husband and I realized is we’re not doing our toddler any favors by continuing to give in to his demands or by doing everything we can to get him to calm down. That is a cyclical dance that we could end up trapped in far beyond his toddler years—no thank you.

So as a united front (because this can’t all fall on one parent), my husband and I vowed to get these toddler tantrums under control. And the other day when our two-year-old had yet another series of tantrums and refused to use his words to communicate, it put us to the test. First we tried to figure out what was upsetting him, but when he refused to communicate outside of tears and screams, it was time to be strong and send him to the “peace” corner to calm his body, try to relax, and to work it out himself.

There is no manual for this parenting stuff and my husband and I are learning that you just have to take it one day at a time, one tantrum at a time, going from green to calm, and dodging all those high frequency gamma rays along the way until you find something that works.

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Categories: Misc.

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