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Monday, October 12, 2009

Enter Tantrum

Annika's has been such a sweet and happy-go-lucky kid for the most part that there was this little part of my brain that has been continuously whispering soothing thoughts in the back of my head when I see other children throw tantrums.

"Nooo, not our Annika," a Gollum-like voice hisses into my brain when our playgroup friends demand toys and yell at other children.

"Annika is a gooood gurl. She will never act like thaaaat."

Well Gollum voice, go to hell, because damnit, my kid is normal and today the fit hit the shan, so to speak....

Annika threw a full-on tantrum on the living room floor that lasted a good three hours.

Ok, ok, it was really only about two or three minutes, but geez, did it feel like a long time.

I just started reading Tears and Tantrums: What to Do When Babies and Children Cryby Aletha Solter, because, quite frankly, I did see this coming. I just hoped I was wrong, or that the little mini-fits she was having were the worst it was going to get.

Before I started reading T & T, I thought that allowing tantrums was a bad thing. And honestly, I think that sometimes there are fits that are really and truly manipulative. I know that makes me sound very non-AP, but I'm starting to realize that there are no hard and fast rules for anything and when it comes to children there are subtleties that only the parents will pick up on.

But this book defies all laws of nature and everything our parents told us (and we all know that they are right about everything) that tantrums are actually a good thing.


Yeah, it's like a sneeze, says Solter. Because see, toddlers are still learning how to control their emotions and when they are upset, confused, frustrated, angry, in pain, tired, cranky, irritated with you, bored, anxious, impatient, you-name-it, they don't have the words or the power to fix the situation.

So what do they do?

They lie on the floor and flail their arms about and roll around and cry and scream and look at you like you're the devil. Then rush into your arms for a hug. Then push you away.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

So yeah, the above is pretty much the scene today when Annika awoke from her nap and I abruptly got up to answer the phone while she was still lounging at the breast.

Normally, I would do one of two things. I would either hold her close and say, "There there, it's okay. What's wrong? How can I help you? What do you need?"

OR, I might, depending on the situation or my mood say something like, "Oh no. There's no need for that behavior."

But today, since I started this book and I was curious about the advice, which is to simply let it happen and stay with your child while it happens.

I did just that.

For one, she raged longer than normal.

And two, when she was done. She hopped up off the floor happily. Patted Baltar, while cooing at him. Then she came over to me and gave me a really long hug and kissed me.

It really seemed to make her feel better.

In addition to letting the child clear out her feelings, the theory behind this methodology is that if you punish or soothe the tantrum away, you are not validating your child's feelings. This could potentially be the beginning of a life of unexpressed emotions. Distrust is another problem too. If you don't validate or allow expression of the feelings, the child will not trust you to really hear her/him.

I'm not totally sure how I feel about this idea. I like it. I hope it's correct. But I'm not completely convinced yet. I'll have to wait and see if this method continues to work so well.

I also plan on reading more about this subject. I'd love to hear suggestions for more material.

And now, for the best part.

Because I'd rather leave you with an image of Annika dancing, not throwing a tantrum. Plus, it's cute as hell.


  1. Hi, I've just discovered your blog through the API Speaks site, and I loved this post so much I had to comment! I have not come across the book you mention, but think I would like to get hold of a copy - the author seems to have a lot of the same ideas as me. As someone who was brought up in quite a repressive way, and not allowed to fully express anything, I am very wary of doing anything that could have that effect on my son.

    Thanks for the inspiring blog!

  2. You're welcome Debs! I am just about finished with the book and it has truly changed my life. Today Annika had a bout of tears that I normally would have soothed away with lots of hugs and nursing, if necessary. But instead I just held her and let her cry. She is now sleeping soundly, without nursing and seems very at peace. Read this book! It will change your life.


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