Does it ever feel like your toddler has multiple personalities, like, say, Dr.
Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde? One day, my daughter
is offering to help me set the table for dinner. The next day, she's screaming bloody murder and
throwing her plate across the room because I dared to cut her waffle into pieces
that were "too small!"
toddlers resemble psychiatric patients from time to time, I'm pretty sure age 3 is too young to worry about a bipolar diagnosis. So what's with the
erratic mood swings and unpredictable behavior? Some of it is just normal toddler stuff, of course. But why are some days good and some days so
and I have spent months pondering this phenomenon, often blaming ourselves for
our kid's nutty antics. "Maybe I didn't give
her enough advance warning that we'd be leaving the park," I'd lament. Or "I wonder if she's upset that I've been
working more lately."
finally, we figured it out. The answer was as simple as Z.Z.Z.
daughter gets a full night sleep, she is an angel. If her sleep is interrupted and she's tired
during the day, we better brace ourselves for an epic meltdown—it's all but
probably seems obvious to veteran moms, but it took us ages to realize the clear
correlation between a rough night (late bedtime, night wakings, up at dawn) and
an even rougher day.
By paying closer attention to my daughter's rhythms, I'm so much better able to prevent or at least predict a tantrum.
can't ensure that my daughter will always sleep well, all I can do is adjust my
expectations when I know she's tired. That means scrapping any ambitious plans, like
multiple errands, in favor of quiet activities at home, such as reading
together or doing a craft. And if I'm
going to proceed with a play date, it better be with a good friend who won't
judge us for some theatrics.
that a lot of these exhaustion-related tantrums take place late in the day,
which makes sense. Moving up bedtime is
a great strategy, as is truncating the bedtime routine. One time, my kid started freaking out right
before bath. I wrapped up her up in my
arms, turned off all the lights and lay down with her. She was asleep within five minutes—tantrum
stopped in its tracks. So what if she
had dirty feet?
I'm also not
above using the car to encourage a power nap or an earlier than usual bedtime.
Just like when she was a baby, my kid always falls asleep faster in a moving
vehicle. (Sometimes I wish we had a boat, or maybe a horse and carriage.)
closer attention to my daughter's rhythms, I'm so much better able to prevent
or at least predict a tantrum. Realizing
that these episodes are beyond my child's control has also helped me be more
sympathetic and understanding. I treat
them almost as I would a boo boo: with kisses and soft words. And then we all go take a much-needed