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👩‍👦"Managing Toddler Tantrums When You're Triggered"

(5 Minute Read) Today is to help you through your kids tantrums, we care about you too :)

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“One minute I was fine and the next thing I know I’m at 100.”

As a client shared this with me, I recalled a recent situation where I was also very triggered by my toddler’s tantrum that quickly escalated to a full-on meltdown. It was nap-time and per usual, she wanted a snack just as we were going up. I gave her two choices, neither were to her liking, but she opted for the apple sauce. We got upstairs, read a book, I laid with her and her brother for a few minutes each and got up to leave.

“I have to go to the bathroom!” she whined.

“Me too!” her brother chimed in. I could feel my heart racing.

I took them both, got them settled back in the room, and as I was leaving one said, “I want some water. I’m thirsty.” At this point, I’m incredibly annoyed. I just wanted to have a moment to sit down and do what I wanted to do. It had been a long morning full of being needed more than usual, and I was also trying to get some extra things done for work. I had been eagerly awaiting the moment they were down, so it made sense that I was annoyed.

I reminded myself, “You, as an adult, get hella thirsty and need to use the restroom throughout the night. It’s not fair to tell them ‘no’ because if they could do it themselves they would.” However, this fact and perspective wasn’t helping today. I went to get the water, gave them a moment to drink, and then one said, “I want more.” I swear in that moment it felt like something came over me; like I had gone from 0 to 100, just like my client had shared. But before we continue this conversation, go support the sponsor we love today, here’s a quick ad for them.

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Although it had happened in my body, my brain & mouth hadn’t caught up yet. I knew that I was triggered and had to get out of there, so as calmly as I could, I let them know there would be no more water. Then it happened. The demand for more water from one, the shouting about something else from the other, the simultaneous crying from them both. I had a decision to make: should I stay or should I go?

More often than not, I would stay and co-regulate with them, but this was not the time. I knew I was at my capacity and if I stayed I would regret the way I handled the situation, so I put them back in their beds, kissed their heads, and let them know, “I love you. Mommy is feeling very angry right now, so I need to take a minute for myself. I will come check on you in 10 minutes.” The crying continued, and one seemed to get louder, and that’s okay. They were safe and I needed to take care of myself before I could go back in that room.

When you’re feeling triggered and trying to manage your toddler’s tantrum, you first need to ask yourself, “Do I have the capacity to respond mindfully or am I going to react from these emotions I’m having?” The question isn’t about what you wish you were going to do, it’s about your reality. If you’re going to react, make sure they’re in a safe space so you can take a moment to regulate your own nervous system.

When you’re feeling triggered, it’s hard to access the part of your brain that allows you to think and act logically. Outside of the moment, take time to explore and identify your sensory calming tools. These are different ways that you can work through what you’re experiencing & feeling in order to ground yourself and regulate your nervous system.

*Please give a gentle round of applause too…*

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By: Leslie Hannans

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When you’re ready, you can re-enter the space with your child. If you weren’t able to leave and ended up snapping, take time to repair. Acknowledge how you were feeling, acknowledge how it might have felt for them to receive that from you, and let them know what you’re going to do differently next time. Doing this is a great way to model taking accountability for your actions, normalizing big emotions, and fixing your mistakes.

When you’re able, revisit the moment and reflect on any shifts you’d like to make the next time this happens (because I can guarantee there will be another situation like that again). For me, this looked like building in time to go to the restroom, ensuring I had their water bottles ready for use as we read (they don’t stay in the room), and taking 5 min for me BEFORE nap-time if it was an extra busy day. In part 2 we’ll discuss how to manage tantrums if you’re triggered but have capacity to stay with them.

Remember, there’s no playbook for parenting. What works well for one child might look different for another. Use this as a guide to help you try things out to see what works best for your family. If you’re looking for some additional tools to support yourself at the moment, You can grab my FREE Calm Mom Kit below for some of my clients’ favorite grounding tools I teach.


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