Two Words: Toddler Emotions
Updated: Mar 14, 2021
Save the drama for your mama.Oh, wait...that's me.
How do you respond to your little one when he/she is on the emotional roller coaster?
A few weeks ago, I was standing by our kitchen counter (which is open to our living room), while Mason was seemingly content and playing. But then he began to cry. I looked over at him, and there was no immediate sign that he'd hurt himself during playtime and no tears streaming down his face. He was just sitting there in the middle of his playpen, crying. I checked his diaper - nope, all clean. Then I checked his head, hands, and feet to see if maybe he dinged himself with a toy - nope, all clear. Perhaps he was hungry? Nope - didn't have any interest in food or water. Still, no tears as he was releasing a very loud cry. I asked my husband to come have a look, but he couldn't reach a conclusion either. After a few hugs and kisses, Mason calmed down. I thought it was strange that he'd gotten so upset out of nowhere, but I let it go.
Then it happened again. And again. The third time, I quietly observed Mason from the kitchen counter. He was trying to fit one of his large animal toys into a much smaller cup. It clearly was not working in his favor, which resulted in him crying, trying to fit the toy in the cup again, and then laying down on his stomach and crying. I had an Aha! Moment: Mason was experiencing frustration and having a bit of a tantrum.
I didn't immediately try to soothe him. I just watched Mason try and try again and get frustrated until he eventually gave up on this match and moved on to playing with other toys. When he was calmer, I went into his playpen and showed him that the large animal toy could fit into a bigger space; specifically, the back part of his toy train used to hold more toys. Soon after, I read this article which helped me understand why Mason has been behaving this way. Here are the main tips that I gathered:
Mason can't fully communicate his feelings yet. He's one year old, so saying whole words and full sentences haven't come into play quite yet. I can only imagine how frustrating this must be for my little guy.
Don't react, but keep an eye out for any safety hazards. This is the way we've been handling Mason's tantrums. He doesn't go into full flailing arms and kicking feet motions, but he will lie on his stomach and cry. We don't give in nor immediately pick him up, but we do watch (from afar) to make sure he doesn't injure himself (no suffocation hazards or big solid toys nearby).
Staying calm in the tone of my voice and composure. To keep myself centered, I'll take a couple deep breaths while Mason's having a moment. It's not his fault for acting this way, and I know it will pass. And honestly, I just feel bad for him when he gets so frustrated. On rare occasions, when Mason's tantrum goes on for long past any of our thresholds and only turns into him purely losing his senses, I do step in and bring him back down from his chaos. While yes, I do support self-soothing, I do believe a parent knows when it's time to step in.
While Mason has his moments of experiencing frustration and agitation within himself, he also has plenty of happy tones. It's such a thrill to watch this boy play with his toys. I'll catch him giggling and using these high pitch babbles while waving a toy up in the air. Sometimes he'll be bouncing his body to music, or tapping his hands on the mat while laughing. When I come into his playpen, he'll crawl or wobbly walk over and give me the biggest hug. I can see that he's so delighted in these moments, and as a mama, it makes me even happier. It gives me a feeling of assurance that alright, I must be doing something right. Right? I love that he's exploring his senses and how much fun he has. So if he has a little sun-shower every now and then it's OK.
A note for readers: It can be so stressful and difficult to not immediately soothe your child when he/she is in a fuss and cannot communicate this clearly to you. Every child is different, and that goes for parenting as well. In this post, I just wanted to share what I personally do to help Mason through, or usually, after his frustration fits. Thank you for reading!