A toddler is only a little person and their world needs to match, but they are living in a big world, so we need to help them keep their world at their size. When we let their world get too big they lose the plot.
Kids can lose the plot in different ways – some will zone out and appear clingy, others will hype up and be everywhere, all over the place and very loud. Some will cry some will scream. Some will stamp their feet and others plonk down and not move. Often we perceive this as a tantrum, but there are different sorts of melt downs and we need to determine the differences.
- There is a defiant melt down – this is where they don’t get their own way and they are not happy about it.
- There is an overwhelmed or overstimulated melt down – where life is just too big and they don’t cope.
When a toddler has too much stuff around them, too many activities, too many people, and too many choices, they struggle to process it all and the meltdown we see is simply their reaction – and their cry for help.
The key to this behaviour is not actually with the toddler – it lays with the parent. What are you going to do in this situation? We can excuse it as ‘terrible twos’, or we can be embarrassed and utter an apology hoping for empathy or we can be a bit more proactive.
Our toddler needs us to help them cope with life
- Keep life at a pace where they can cope. They do better with routine; with a balance of quiet times and interactive times.
- Maintain daily nap times – make this a priority and work your activities around this. When we start to be flexible with this time in the day, they very quickly drop the habit/skill (to their detriment and ours!)
- Say no… Saying no to a child isn’t going to harm them, in fact, the earlier they learn that the world doesn’t revolve around them and their wants the happier they will be with real life. Saying yes to everything just makes their world bigger.
When we are out and about what can we do when the toddler loses the plot?
- Walk away from the crowd to give toddler some space to calm down
- Cuddle – spend some time cuddling, rocking and loving – it is as much the one on one attention as the loving touch
- May be time for some food? Toddlers don’t always last the same distance as adults between meals.
- Go home – try and not make this the last resort. Go home before toddler reaches this desperate place. If you can’t go home, give some time to them, doing something with them – read a book, play a game, go for a walk.
As adults, when we reach the end of our tether we can usually do something about it – we can usually walk away ourselves or take ourselves home, or not go out in the first place. But a toddler doesn’t have this ability or freedom. We need to help them cope when their world gets a little too big for them.
You can see the rest of my Living with a Toddler for 31 days series here.
Or find more 31 day series here.