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I Counted My Kids' Tantrums for a Day and Here's What I Learned

Photograph by Unsplash/Arwan Sutanto

We seem to have a common background noise at our house, one that I have been tiring of: Crying. Tantrums. Whining. I’ve tried many approaches to keeping those sounds at a minimum but for some reason 2018 has turned up the dial without my permission.

For weeks, I went to bed feeling shattered, like I'd been listening to static all day, unable to hear myself think. I felt like I lived in a circus. As the mom, it’s my job to put out the fires but I was running out of the necessary water to do so. My tank was empty and I couldn’t handle one more meltdown. I had suddenly become "that mom": Haggard. Tired. Done.

I needed to try something new.

On a typical day, I woke at 6:15 a.m. to that noise. I had officially had enough. I decided to try something I’ve never heard of before: I kept track of uproar. I pulled out my smartphone and took notes, quickly typing the names of my four children across the screen. For the rest of the day I tallied up the tantrums, fits, fights and meltdowns that occurred.

The number we ended up with—which I will take to my grave—was astounding. However, it revealed a lot about my family as I paid closer attention to these little, perfectly imperfect humans. I focused more on the reasons behind the tears, what was to blame (maybe even who was to blame) and what I could do to help.

While these may seem obvious to some, here's what I learned after my day of observation:

- My toddler threw the most fits but my 1-year-old made the most noise. He squawks, screams and growls when he wants something, so this was a constant sound throughout the day.

- My toddler’s fits were mostly because she was frustrated and couldn’t communicate those frustrations. Reminding her to “Use words” was helpful but sometimes she just wanted to kick and scream.

If nothing else, keeping track of all the fits and yelling proved I wasn’t crazy.

- My toddler sits on her little brother when he encroaches on her space or tries to play with her books, toys, etc. She cries in anger. Her cries … well, because she’s sitting on him! We need to teach the upside of sharing.

- Certain times of day the reasons for all the meltdowns were more obvious—like naptime, mealtime and bedtime. If they’re tired or hungry, forget about it! But hey, Mom’s the same way.

- The older kids need food as soon as they walk in the door after school! I mean, ASAP. Upping my snack game will definitely help. You can have healthy options on the counter or table when they come home, or designate a drawer in fridge just for snacks—that way, they can help themselves. (Hallelujah, it’s almost summer!)

- Sometimes kids need a break from people, especially after school. Some quiet time to chill in their room, even 15 minutes, can work wonders for their mood.

- Sometimes kids need one-on-one time. Again, even 15 minutes can make them feel like they are No. 1! If you have multiple children, this is tricky. Not every child will get your undivided attention each day. Get creative with it and do your best.

All in all, I’m glad I paid more attention. This really helped me find better solutions to the noise pollution we currently face. The accountability of the tally marks helped me keep my crap together, too.

If nothing else, keeping track of all the fits and yelling proved I wasn’t crazy. The constant noise was there; I just had to figure out a way to minimize it, keep my bucket full, smile and remember that it won’t always be this way. For better or worse, someday my house will be quiet. For now, I’ll take a little noise.

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