…and if so, is that normal? I often find myself discussing various aspects of parenting with a variety of other mums going through similar stages and phases with their children, but recently, during a conversation about the ‘Terrible Twos’ an older lady who’s daughter is now in her 20s interjected into the discussion stating that she’d never had to witness the Terrible Twos as her daughter had been a perfect angel and never had any tantrums. I did a double take – really? A toddler that never had a single tantrum? Is that even possible? I have to admit to being extremely sceptical assuming that this lady was just misremembering through a rosy-tinted haze.
Next time I was on the laptop my curiosity got the better of me and I googled “toddlers who never have tantrums” (or something similar) to see whether there was actually any evidence, anecdotal or otherwise for such a phenomenon. I found a thread on NetMums discussing this subject and there were actually a few people who claimed to have children who don’t conform to the generally understood phenomenon of the Terrible Twos. I don’t think anyone claimed that there were no bad times at all but just that they had children who were very mild-mannered and even if they got upset about something it would involve no more than a couple of minutes of grumpiness before they moved on.
The general feeling seemed to be that tantrums really exist on a sliding scale depending on the nature of the child – anything from a little minute-long grump to full on rolling around on the floor of the supermarket kicking, screaming and crying.
Other than the nature of the child, external factors also have to be taken into account – maybe some parents are just better at following their children’s cues and making sure they are never too tired, hungry, stressed or overstimulated. I’m sure this must be easier to manage with an only child too as you are able to focus solely on that one child’s needs and patterns – with more than one you are constantly juggling and trying to play off the balancing act.
And maybe some parents just give in to their child’s every demand and that’s why there are no real tantrums? Having said that I have definitely been guilty of one of the big no-nos of parenting when it comes to tantrums – giving my children the thing they want, to fend off or end a melt-down. I managed slightly better yesterday in our local garden centre when JJ started losing it because I wouldn’t buy him one of their juice bottles. I stood my ground though and when he eventually wailed “but Mummy I’m thirsty” I whipped the pre-packed drink bottles out of my bag and that seemed to be an end to it! (If I had taken the bottles out any earlier they would have been dashed away no doubt, I think he just had to reach a point where he realised that this was actually a workable solution to his actual issue – being thirsty – albeit not as cool a solution as one in a £1.50 tiger-shaped bottle).
In my further research I learned that tantrums happen at a time when children are developing the limbic system – the emotional centre of the brain. This kicks in before the development of the cortex (the reasoning and thinking part of the brain) so when emotions hit, they hit hard and there is nothing in place to off-centre that flood of feelings. The article I read did acknowledge that some children never have tantrums, but I guess its reassuring to know that when they happen they are actually indicators of healthy brain function and development – I still think I’d be a bit weirded out by a perfect angel.
How about you?