Terrible Two’s, Threenagers and Fournados: A Parents’ Guide to Taming Temper Tantrums

We’ve all been there – peacefully meandering through the aisles of your neighborhood food market while pushing a seemingly jubilant toddler in the stroller.  As he proudly identifies a myriad of items on the shelves, you think how fortunate you are to have such precocious and blissful offspring. Suddenly, you turn the corner and find yourself entering the dreaded grocery aisle of doom. Kit Kats, Reese’s Pieces, jelly beans, oh my! You desperately attempt to swerve off the path, but it’s too late – he’s already recognized the wrappers prominently gleaming. He begins bucking wildly and lunging at the shelves nearby, determined to escape from the confines of the stroller and dislodge a package of M&M’s from a shelf. The delightful cherub you were amorously admiring 30 seconds ago has morphed into a demon-child, threatening a campaign of terror if not immediately satiated with chocolate. A daunting wave of panic washes over you and as the first bead of sweat trickles down your face, you may experience an overwhelming impulsion to abandon both your shopping cart and your boss baby. But this isn’t the first exhausting, melodramatic temper tantrum, and certainly won’t be the last. Parenting is much like navigating through an emotional minefield with unforeseen hazards at every juncture. And for reasons yet to be revealed to mankind, children prefer to stage such outbursts in public forums, resulting in the maximum destruction of your sanity. However, armed with patience, resilience and an aresenal of my tried-and-tested techniques elaborated below, it is possible to tame the beast and survive even the most shameful moments of public humiliation with your tantrumming toddler.

Hug It Out: Because giving your toddler a spontaneous crash course in anger-management just isn’t feasible during a mega tantrum, I often trust my most primal instinct, which tells to cradle my children in their moments of distress. It’s important, however, to take the proper precautions when attempting this maneuver by promptly removing your child’s shoes or any objects that could potentially become flying projectiles. The next best thing to a size 3T straitjacket, a tight embrace effectively restricts flailing limbs and helps restore the hormonal balance inside an impassioned child’s body. The deep pressure of a tight hug can have an immediate calming effect and can be used to diffuse even the most agitated toddler. Full disclosure – forcibly hugging a child in mid-tantrum can also result in an exacerbation of said tantrum into fiendish demonic possession, as tactile-defensive children may turn hysterical when their movements are thwarted.

Ignore It Although it’s difficult to ignore your child’s deliberate attempts to sabotage your day and wreak havoc on your eardrums, it’s also inconceivable to fit a 28-minute tantrum into your hectic daily schedule. Ain’t nobody got time for that! In my personal experience, tantrums most commonly occur at moments a child is reminded that he is not the epicenter of the universe, like when you give him a waffle for breakfast despite his demands for ice cream with chocolate syrup (in the green bowl, not the blue one). In my personal experience, the resulting tantrum provides an excellent opportunity for moms to file their nails or indulge in at-home spa treatments while Junior exercises his self-soothing techniques. If you struggle with pervasive mommy guilt, remind yourself that this experience is laying the groundwork for your child’s healthy acceptance of limits, boundaries, and the development of frustration tolerance. If tantrums are consistently met with apathy, a child will learn that throwing a tantrum will fail to produce the desired outcome. And preventing these tantrums from reoccurring should always be your ultimate goal because hell hath no fury like a toddler who wanted a green sippy cup instead of a blue one.

Embrace the Tantrum:  Tired of fighting an uphill battle? Try this novel approach. Let the tantrum wash over you and soak up all of its satanic glory. Kick back and let it run its course while you watch from the safety of the sidelines in shock and awe. As your child thrashes uncontrollably on the floor, silently applaud him on his agility and vocal range. He’s going to sleep well tonight.  As you see the tantrum de-escalating, calmly ask him if he’s done yet, at which point he will most likely stand up and agree, having already forgotten about the irrational reasons for his volatile public outburst. At this point, indulge your child with affection and praise him for taking control of his emotions and conquering his existential hissy fit like a champ.

Match the Intensity: Parenting toddlers is a real-life depiction of the whack-a-mole carnival game. Igniting metaphorical fires wherever they go, my toddlers are mischievous, fearless, and strong-willed. As soon as I extinguish one flame, another one appears while the last one is still smoldering. Sometimes the inherent frustration of parenting causes us (myself included) to be dismissive of our children, especially when they unabashedly launch into inconvenient torrents of rage for reasons which seem preposterous to us. But while we may not think dropping a cookie on the street warrants a 15 minute temper tantrum, we must be careful not to trivialize our children’s feelings. “I know, you were so excited to eat it and now it’s gone. It’s OK, blah blah blah…” Most parents would suggest keeping calm and whispering words of understanding and encouragement to your child, but validating your child’s emotions alone isn’t always a silver bullet. In order to show your children that you truly comprehend their feelings, sometimes you need to match their intensity. While huffing and puffing and arms flailing, “You’re UPSET! You wanted to eat the cookie, but then you dropped it and I won’t allow you to eat it off the dirty street! IT’S TERRIBLE! That delicious cookie just lying in the street! You’re just plain ANGRY! The absolute HORROR of it all!” Such a grandiose display of emotions will show your kid that you understand precisely what he’s been trying to tell you for the past 15 minutes. Tantrum over.

Let’s Make A Deal:  Move over, Houdini. There’s a new escape artist in town, and her most perilous breakouts typically ensue during the apex of her most explosive temper tantrums.  Having mastered the art of shimmying free of her stroller’s shoulder straps, my 2-year-old doll-faced fugitive will attempt to kamikaze-dive out of a moving stroller when her demands for my cell phone prove unsuccessful. Because her safety is my foremost priority, in these unique situations I often resort to bargaining with the twenty-pound terrorist to prevent her from swan-diving from her stroller onto Second Avenue. I confess to promising her everything but ten million dollars and a getaway helicopter so long as she remains safely seated in her stroller. I am not at all above bribery and let’s be honest – parenting toddlers is fundamentally an amateur form of hostage negotiation.

Bait & Switch:  As most parents can attest, there is a very brief window of time at the onset of agitation where steps can be taken to prevent escalation into a temper tantrum of epic proportions. But all too often we miss these tell-tale signs and instead find ourselves face-to-face with a bona fide demonic possession. Fear not – the same tactics we use to prevent a temper tantrum can also be helpful for abolishing them. At any given time, my diaper bag contains an arsenal of small toys and snacks that would pacify even the most discerning toddler. Some could crudely interpret the desperate introduction of novel objects as inadvertently rewarding bad behavior – to which I would respond – nobody likes your unsolicited advice anyways… haters. If a bag of cheddar bunnies distracts my child from a rage-fuelled burst while forcibly putting on winter jacket in below freezing temperatures, how can this be a bad thing?

Surrender: Admit defeat and give him/her your phone.

One of the most valuable pearls of wisdom I’ve acquired along this journey is that we must seek out our own moments of gratification, and that sometimes this can be found in the most unexpected places. For instance, one of my guiltiest pleasures is stumbling upon other toddlers in my neighborhood whose unabashed lack of impulse control rivals that of my own toddlers. In these moments I savor the confirmation that there are others who share my children’s penchant for gratuitous tears, inconceivable contortions and fondness for writhing on the floor. If you see me discreetly chuckling as I pass by, please rest assured – I’m laughing with you, not at you.

WHAT WE’RE WEARING:

Swanky One-Shoulder Ruffle Top in Blue

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AE Ne(x)t Level High-Waisted Jegging Crop, Indigo Shadow Destroy

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Gucci Rhinestone Sunglasses

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Chloe “Isa” Frayed Denim Espadrille Sandal, Blue/Coffee – SOLD OUT 

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SIMILAR HERE:

See by Chloé “Glyn” Leather & Frayed Canvas Espadrille Wedge Platform Sandals

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Steve Madden “Venus” Wedge

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Gymboree Heart Striped Dress

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Secure Your Own Mask Before Helping Others

“If cabin pressure should change, panels above your seat will open revealing oxygen masks. Please secure your own mask before helping others.” It is a script that seasoned jetsetters could recite verbatim in their sleep. But even though these instructions are disseminated to travelers on daily commercial flights world-wide, the notion of putting ourselves before others seems to contradict our most basic maternal instincts.

Contrary to the aviation regulations, motherhood is an all-consuming role consisting of, but not limited to, endless diaper changes, everlasting snotty noses and a myriad of sacrifices. We sacrifice a good night’s sleep, our ability to fit into size 2 skinny jeans, and a substantial part of our bank accounts all in the name of doing what is best for our children. By putting their needs above our own, we are offering our children more opportunities for growth and enrichment, and perhaps even shaping the minds and hearts of future world leaders.

It’s far too often that we obsess about the minutiae of parenting only to realize that an entire day went by without a single moment of solitude. Maybe your baby refuses to wear his mittens in cold weather, or maybe he ingested some dirt from your neighborhood sandbox. Perhaps your toddler even used the walls of your home to create crayon-based mural drawings. In the grand scheme of things these are only minor grievances, but they distract us from some of the most fundamental basics of healthy living – assuring that our own needs are met and exercising self-compassion. It’s imperative that despite our perpetually demanding role as mothers, we refrain from becoming so narrowly focused on the upbringing of our children that we neglect to take time for ourselves.

Spending time engaging in self-care rituals can sometimes feel selfish and overly-indulgent when there are little ones vying for your attention. You may ask yourself how you can possibly justify a spa day when the kids so desperately need you, but that’s where you’re wrong. Only after we are able to replenish our own spirits do we have the capacity to be fully present and address the needs of our children with authenticity. Denying ourselves of the opportunity to practice self-care habits is like treading water in a rip current and will almost always result in parental burnout.

Self-care is a broad term that encompasses anything we do to maintain our emotional and physical well-being. Practicing meditation, taking a bubble bath, indulging in our favorite meal, or spa treatments are popular self-care activities among some of my closest friends. But so many of us (myself included) often need a reminder to get off the hamster wheel of our chaotic lives and actually do something to pamper ourselves and recharge our batteries.

As a self-professed shopaholic, nothing soothes my soul quite like a quick jaunt around Bloomingdales or any of my other favorite mega retailers. After all, when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping! Mindlessly meandering through racks of my most beloved designers is my most preferred way to purge my mind of the chaos of everyday life. Escapism at its best, retail therapy doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Although “comfort buys” certainly put a spring in my step, it’s not always necessary to purchase anything to achieve a similar degree of inner-peace. Window shopping, or what I like to refer to as “research,” is a mood-boosting multi-sensory experience. Running delicate fabrics between my fingers or taking in the fragrance of buttery-soft leather transports me to a place of pure relaxation.

What are some of the things you do to self-soothe?

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Shop My Look:

 Faux Suede Biker Jacket – H&M

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Gucci Square Swarovski Sunglasses

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 Zadig & Voltaire Joe Keith Boots

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Mom Plans, G-d Laughs

In lieu of a calendar, I’ve always relied on Starbucks to notify me of the upcoming shifting seasons. When is the first day of Fall? As soon as the Pumpkin Spiced Latte makes its seasonal arrival, of course! After several days of fueling myself with autumnal drinks that spark a cult-like following, I was itching to celebrate the commencement of Fall with an afternoon of family-friendly seasonal activities. Aside from scoring a new pair of limited edition Louboutins, nothing tickles my fancy quite like meandering through a field of vibrantly colored pumpkins with my children or picking apples at our favorite orchard.  For the past several years, Harvest Moon Farm and Orchard has provided us with the most perfect destination for family fun amidst a backdrop of crinkly leaves under foot, crisp red apples begging to be picked, and the aroma of fresh apple cider donuts in the air. And for parents whose children stage imperfectly-timed meltdowns on their grounds, rest assured – their spiked cider is some of the best I’ve had.

We couldn’t wait to make our annual pilgrimage to Harvest Moon this Fall and had been looking forward to our visit all week. I made an elaborate mental blueprint of our day from start to finish beginning with photos in the pumpkin patch followed by pony rides and culminating with apple picking. Spending the afternoon traipsing through the picturesque countryside with my little sidekicks would be nothing short of delightful. After draping myself in my favorite fur vest (because what else should one wear apple picking?) we packed the car with all the essentials (extra layers, camera, bottles of water and several pairs of shoes for different terrain). But despite my painstaking efforts to adhere to a thorough agenda for the afternoon, what ensued could best be described as sheer pandemonium. We’ve all heard the bitter Yiddish proverb, “Man plan, g-d laughs,” but the individual who coined this expression of wisdom was most certainly referring to my life in a nutshell.

What I had anticipated would be a mild September afternoon actually capped out at a sweltering 91 degrees. The assumption that we would have quintessential Fall weather was only my first of many miscalculations about how the afternoon would transpire. What a fool. Luckily I was able to change into a more weather appropriate outfit I had stashed in our car. As we entered the pumpkin patch my ordinarily easygoing 16-month old clung to me like a current-season pair of Manolo’s at a sample sale. Seemingly overwhelmed by the mass quantity of future jack-o’-lanterns, she fought me tooth and nail as I tried to lower her to the ground. What about the photos? How can I possibly get the highly-coveted instagram-worthy shots if I can’t even set her down for a moment? Mom plans, G-d laughs. As I snapped away for the next few minutes, the images I captured were ones of an adorably nurturing older sibling and the cutest pouty lip on this side of the Hudson. The unwavering connection between these two had never been so palpable as in these tender moments. And although the images weren’t the idealized representation of children in a pumpkin patch, they epitomized the chaotic reality of parenthood.

Next on the agenda – apple picking! I had spent the night before perusing Pinterest for the most appetizing baked apple recipes and ultimately selected a scrumptious apple crisp. My 3-year old had also spent the previous week in preschool learning to identify different types of apples based on color and shape and was eagerly anticipating this segment of our afternoon. As we began our ascent up the steep hill to the orchard, the blazing afternoon sun was beating down on us with relentless fury. Just keep going. With beads of sweat already dripping down our foreheads, the prospect of pushing a double stroller up this steep hill seemed absolutely dreadful. As a result of these unforeseen sizzling conditions, we made the executive decision to forgo what would most certainly be a painful apple-picking experience for all. So much for my homemade apple crisp.  Mom plans, G-d laughs. I quickly ushered my son over to the farm animals, and after a pony ride he had completely forgotten all about apple picking.

This may not have been the exact day I had choreographed for my kids, but it was their day and they lived it just how they wanted.  Despite the tears shed, stifling temperatures endured, and disappointing changes of plans, the laughs we shared are memories I will always hold dear. And as we enter this new season, I will strive not to burden myself with disappointment of activities not completed, play dates not had or trips not taken. So what if we didn’t get a picture-perfect moment in the pumpkin patch? So what if we didn’t make it up the hill to the orchard? Although I’m consistently searching for teachable moments in the day-to-day activities with my kids, some of the most valuable lessons learned are my own.  So frequently we foolishly hold tight to our expectations and assume that we are in control over the details of our lives. But despite our most careful planning, life with kids is unpredictable and much of what happens is beyond the realm of our control. The sooner we can surrender ourselves to the uncertainty of motherhood, the easier it will be to implement tools that will help us stay calm amidst the struggles and challenges thrown our way. It will be chaotic. It will be far from perfect. But it will undoubtedly be the most wonderful time of your life.

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Shop Our Looks: 

Off-the-shoulder top  – H&M

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Ray-Ban Shrunken Aviator Sunglasses – ShopBop   RAY-BAN-Aviator-RB-3025-112-85-58-14-6570_HD

VALENTINO GARAVANI Rockstud Jelly Sandals – Saks Fifth Avenue

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Picnic Ruffle Romper – Moonlight Bundles

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Ralph Lauren Childrenswear Boys’ Performance Polo – Bloomingdale’s

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DKNY Khaki Cargo Shorts & Belt – Zulily

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