How To Deal With Toddler Tantrums

This is a beautiful photograph of my triplets at just 2 years old.  Picture perfect triplets, all dressed in their best clothes, photographer arrives and we have a wonderful afternoon with amazing photographs of my triplets…… Oh how I dreamt that would be how it would go!

 

Sadly it didn’t ! Precisely 2 minutes after the Screen Shot 2016-01-16 at 23.28.19photographer arrived, all hell broke loose ! Triplet one wanted Squirrel Nutkin, but it was Triplet 3’s toy, who wouldn’t give her it.  They argued, and hit each other, both screamed and burst into tears. Great! So now not only were they in thoroughly bad moods but they would have red faces in the photos! Temper tantrums in toddlers is not a pretty sight!

Triplet 1, Bethany on the left, with the pursed lips had only just stopped crying, whilst triplet 3, Eloise had forgotten about it all the second it had finished. My boy, Giles sat there and smiled through the whole thing!   This has been a theme throughout their childhood, triplet 1 feeling things so much more than triplet 3. My boy though had other party tricks, if he got cross and went into a tantrum it would usually end up with him being sick!  So on outings, especially ones involving eating, I would take a container just in case he decided throw a wobbly!  Its sad when I think about it now but I was so determined that I would not stay home, just so I didn’t have to deal with any bad behaviours.

Each one of my triplets has a different character, they can love one another one minute and be hitting the hell out of each other the next.  This is the lead up to the terrible twos in triplicate!  Be reassured though, this phase lasts only for a year or so, once they get to the stage that they can communicate better, around age 3 yrs, the frustrations they feel are easier for them to express.

 

Tantrums In Public

Temper tantrums in toddlers is bad enough but when its in duplicate or triplicate, it is totally out of control. Public displays of temper tantrums laid bare….  My biggest fear was my reaction to their challenging behaviour in public.

 

 

 

Set of baby emotion icons. Cartoon little babies 6-12 months, in diapers, sitting, laughing, crying, curious baby. Sad, happy, thoughtful kid. Sketchy style. Colorful vector illustration isolated.
Set of baby emotion icons. Cartoon little babies 6-12 months, in diapers, sitting, laughing, crying, curious baby. Sad, happy, thoughtful kid. Sketchy style. Colorful vector illustration isolated.

I dreaded the looks and stares I would get from passing public or being contained in some public transportation or building and them kicking off.  I didn’t want those comments ‘ Fancy bringing your children out if you can’t control them’ or ‘ Cant you keep your children under control?’   I think because of this I was more controlling about their behaviour, more so than a singleton parent might be.  I wanted to be able to take them anywhere and know that I could trust them to behave. Triplet 3 was the hardest. She was so determined and independent, scarily so on a few occasions, I devised a few strategies that helped me cope and helped me teach them about being well behaved.

 

It paid off, by the time they were age 3-4, I could take them out and know that we were going to have a great afternoon at the zoo or the party they had been invited to wasn’t going to be a mental nightmare for me, crossing my fingers and hoping that they wouldn’t bite someone or have a temper tantrum whilst all the other yummy mummies were waiting to gossip about the triplet mom with out of control kids. (maybe I was imagining that)    I have only ever smacked once, this was triplet 3. We had just got a new  car, our very first since having the triplets. It was a Seat Alhambra with three rows of seats.  I was very pleased to finally have a car that we could get everything into.  The other two children had been to a friends for tea whilst I took triplet 3 to a gymnastic class – she had shown talent and was in an elite squad, but we were running late so I told her that we were not staying at the friends house, simply picking up her brother and sister and going home. She got so angry and kicked a hole straight through the speaker cover on her door.  I was furious and smacked her.  The first and last time I let it get to me.  The Tools for Coping With Triplet Tantrums have been compiled over several years!  I still break out in a sweat thinking about toddler tantrums in public though !

 

The Tools for Coping With Twin or Triplet Tantrums

Rule #1  – Do not back down on what you have said. This is a cordinal rule !  Even if its easier to give in when a tantrum starts.

Scenario… You’re walking round the supermarket ( I tried to avoid taking them with me if at all possible) getting essentials, being quick, and one starts because they have seen some crisps or sweeties. This sets the other two off….. great ! Toddler Tantrums In Public…Oooh my favourite kind of tantrum !  Everyone can hear them now, you might be in aisle 24 but EVERYONE knows you’re there..!  You have said no and you cannot back down from that, otherwise you are reinforcing their behaviour that if they kick off, they will get what they want, and believe me I have seen this in 9 – 10 – 11 year olds who have been given in to when they kick off… not a attribute you want in your children. This is a manipulation tantrum.  Pre-empt the scenario  and take with you little snacks they can have… maybe have a little snack box each. They can sit in the trolley ( I used to put one in the basket section too) and munch on their raisins or breadsticks, carrots or rice cakes and probably wont even bother about whats on the shelves.  Have a look at the Oxo Tot Flippy Snack Keeper on my ‘Best Baby Bowls’ page. One each would be perfect.

A word of warning … Don’t park your trolley too close to the shelves…. Little fingers can reach a long way!

Rule #2 – Ignore unacceptable behaviour.  As long as they are not putting themselves in danger or hurting one of their siblings, I tended to ignore them.  This was not the effect they thought they would get, expecting to be the centre of attention, but on a more basic level for an 18 month old, its a good place to start, but remember always praise good behaviour and reinforce that, theyre bright enough to understand even at this age and will want more praise. Attention tantrums are understandable to a degree when you’re one of triplets, wanting Mommy time.  If this becomes a pattern, perhaps having an extra pair of hands a few afternoons a week would ease this. I had a great helper called June who lived locally and would come every afternoon to help with going out for a walk, teatime and bedtime. It made a world of difference, they all loved June !

Rule #3 – Biting.  We only had one episode of this, thankfully it was at home when Bethany put her fingers through the slats of her brother’s cot, he bit !  A tricky one to deal with. If theyre still very young its tough to tell them off as they wont understand, but age 3 and still biting…NO!  At the nursery my triplets went to, I and another mom were asked to stay back at the end whilst everyone else collected their offspring.  I was sweating, thinking who has done what?? Ok, I would be angry but glad everyone else had gone.  But no! It was my little precious that had been bitten by the other mom’s boy ! I was so relieved !  My child was fine, indentations in the skin but not broken and I simply was grateful mine was the bitee and not the biter ! Frustration can cause this sort of behaviour, the inability to express at this age, leads to biting a release. If you have a biter, they have two others in close proximity to use as a teething ring, so keep ‘helicopter mom’ flying around leading up to challenging times – before lunch, before naps, the times theyre likely to bite. Its a small period of time, but with reinforcement that you are unhappy with them, they will get the message. Fortunately their teeth aren’t sharp enough to do any real damage.

Little Angels….. ?

Rule #4 – Try to control your behaviour towards them, rule by example.  Im not saying I was a saint, twins or triplets would even try their patience sometimes!  But remember that your behaviour rubs off on them, so if they see you smacking, they will think hitting is acceptable.  If you swear or use bad language, a Mommy Meltdown, they will pick up on this and use it too. Its not about bringing up clones that can’t think for themselves but rather bringing up your children who you want to fit into society, with all their edges, to be happy well rounded adults. So Im not saying you have to rule them with a rod of iron, but give them good values that will help them to become happy and successful adults. If its all getting to you, they’re safe and there is nothing they need, walk away!

Rule #5 – Breath Holding. This is a really good ploy for a toddler to try out to get their own way.  If you react to it and panic, the behaviour will be positively  reinforced so whilst it might look frightening, your child will not come to any harm. Simply make sure theyre in a safe place and try to ignore them.  They may pass out for a second or two but this is not harmful to them and it is unlikely that they will carry on when they see it has not had any effect on you.  Eloise, my independent triplet held her breath and collapsed, but she was 6 years old, had been told not to run inside, she hadn’t listened and had run into a door post. Started crying because she had banged her head, inhaled and didnt exhale and collapsed. By the time she was on the floor she was breathing. She was absolutely fine and she never ran in the house again.  It was frightening, she hadn’t done it on purpose so I have experienced the feeling of seeing your child hold their breath, if for a different reason.

Rule #6 – There are times when you simply have to pick the battles. I thought about this one day when I had had a particularly bad day with my three. All I seem to have said to them was ‘stop it!’ “No, you can’t do that!’ ‘Put that down!’ “Pick that up!’ ‘I told you to leave the cat alone! ‘ ‘Go get your shoes!’ ‘Stop picking your nose!’ So decided that I had to reduce the negativeness they must feel from me, trying to make them perfect little toddlers. I felt that if they want to pick their nose, then fine, it will get sore and they wont do it again. They wont die from it, so hey let that one go… Its not nice in public and I would say something then but at home….  The cat, well if you dont leave him alone, he will scratch you… maybe after being told 10 times, let the  cat look after himself… they will learn.

 

My triplets are well behaved, they can be taken anywhere, they are older now and with that has come a semblance of normality.  I feel that my dealing with the tantrum stage was the best I could do at the time, which I am sure you will manage too.   I think my biggest message, following on from the last rule is…

Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff ! 

Your triplets don’t hate you, none of this is personal. But get to know the triggers and preempt any

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