We recently celebrated a 3rd birthday at our house and it seems as though the third year of life is coming with a lot of drama. Like enough drama for this mama, her mama, any other random mama you might see on the streets of Pittsburgh and then some.
And for those of you still not sure what I’m talking about let’s just say that hell hath no fury like a 3-year-old experiencing injustice. Unfortunately, toddler injustices abound like water in her eyes during bath time, crust remnants on her peanut butter and jelly sandwich and of course, everybody’s least favorite indignity – having to wear pants.
Before you think I’m Nancy Negative, let me just say that for the most part my 3-year-old is a little ray of sunshine surrounded by an angelic chorus of giggles and that even with her recent displays of drama I know that it’s definitely not as bad as it could be. It’s just that when the tantrums hit, it can be really really hard to deal.
If we’re telling the truth here, there are times when she starts throwing a tantrum when I really want to respond by throwing one myself. Not so much because I’m trying to perfect my reverse psychology but more because OH MY GOD I HATE TANTRUMS! (Bangs fist on floor and kicks the couch.)
It’s funny too because although I met my stepdaughter when she was going through this phase, I’m still not an expert at dealing with it because when the shoe was on her foot I was still enough of an outsider to be completely uninvolved while making silent judgments about the other parties: “Well, if you’d just do this, you know, like they say to do in Perfect Smug Parents Weekly then your problem would be solved.”
HA! ROFL! Can you believe I actually thought stuff like that? Actually, I bet you can because if you have kids you probably thought the same kind of stuff before your little ones turned that one on its head and if you don’t have kids then you might even be thinking that right now: “Duh, Laurie, if I were you I would just (insert some amateur move that would never work).”
It’s not that there aren’t any solutions to temper tantrums, it’s just that they’re all difficult and exhausting and sometimes when you are looking down at the belly of the beast your mind doesn’t function all that well. Like mostly I am looking at my super adorable yet totally feral child and I am thinking “Oh my god, this screaming demon came from my loins, what have I unleashed into this world?” and I’m not really recalling the Top 10 Tips to Tame Temper Tantrums.
But there are some things that I’m trying and that I think are somewhat sorta kinda maybe just a wee bit helpful and one of them is from TV so you know I’ll have to tell you about that!
Since temper tantrums are usually about communication, or the toddler’s lack thereof, one thing I’ve tried to do since she was old enough to talk was to name those difficult emotions. You know, like instead of just random crying we would get all touchy-feely and talk about why she was crying so she could get to statements like “I’m sad because Daddy’s not home” or “I’m mad because I want to jump on the bed” or “I’m angry because you won’t let me eat the entire bag of marshmallows.”
That kind of works, because usually once I can get her to say “I’m mad” or “I’m sad” or “You’re makin’ me angry, Mommy” it means that she’s gotten through that screaming phase of the tantrum enough to form words and sometimes after I identify what she’s feeling instead of just thinking that a random nothingness sent her into a total tailspin, then I can work at walking her through those emotions.
So talking it out is a good thing even if it means that she tells me I’m making her angry a lot. That’s okay. I’m pretty sure if I was always making her happy it would mean that I needed to cut down on my Xanax prescription and tune into the real world for five minutes.
And then there’s Daniel Tiger!
Yes, Daniel Tiger is helping me ease toddler tantrums. Who knew? Okay, besides the child psychologists and experts who probably wrote the show with just that goal in mind. See, in each episode of Daniel Tiger, our little furry hero is beset by a childhood injustice – his birthday cake gets smashed, those other kids in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe want to share his toys and it freakin’ rains on the day he wants to go to the beach.
His problems are usually solved by the level-headed adults in the show who are obviously much better human beings than me but that’s probably because they are not real and they come armed with some super catchy jingles to help teach that day’s lesson: “If something goes bad, turn it around, and find something good” or our personal favorite (because apparently in my house we are all very angry) “When you get so mad that you want to roar, take a deep breath and count to four.”
Believe it or not, if I start to sing these songs during the height of the drama, she usually either starts to laugh or sometimes she finishes it with me. I was thinking that it might be a fluke just because she REALLY likes that show but I recently met another mom who said that the songs from the show are really helping her daughter too.
So for its Mister Rogers connection, its crayon factory visits, its strawberry picking montages, the fact that it is super cute AND its ability to help thwart some toddler drama I am officially declaring Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood to be the BEST SHOW EVER. Forever and Ever*.
*But not Forever and Ever Amen because then that might mean drunken naked Randy Travis showing up on our doorstep.