The “terrible threes” is real y’all. It’s tough being a three year old. You’re trying to figure out how the world works as well as potty training, sharing your toys, meeting new people and learning to do things for yourself. Sometimes that means you lose your shit. My son Myles has been dealing with these experiences by falling to the floor screaming and crying in a fit of emotions.
Recently he had his worst tantrum yet all because he wanted to get out of the bathtub himself. He didn’t want his daddy to pick him up out of the tub and when he did he proceeded to wail and cry and get snot all over himself. It was so bad that we had to switch off. You have to do that sometimes, if you have a parenting partner, because the screaming and crying can be really overwhelming and you don’t always know how to handle it. You could say the wrong thing and set them off all over again. My husband had like five minutes before his online grad class started so I took over. (I’m really thankful to have him as a partner. Major props to the single parents out there. I don’t know how you manage it.)
After some soothing words and gentle touches on his head and arms, I was able to get Myles to calm down and use his words so he could tell me why he was so upset. He kept saying something about wanting to get in the bath. At first I thought he wanted to play a little longer in the water so I told him he could have a few more minutes. I helped him climb back in the tub and proceeded to run the water. All of a sudden he yelled “No, turn the water off!”. I was lost y’all. What in the world did this child want? So, I turned off the water and he started to climb back out of the tub. I tried to help him and he said “No! I want to do it myself!” So, I let him climb out of the tub while watching him very carefully. Then he was fine. That’s all he wanted. He hadn’t wanted his daddy to take him out of the tub. He wanted to do it himself. All of the screaming and crying was because he was trying to exert his independence.
You can hear Myles throwing his fit in the background of this video of my eldest dancing to The Freeze Game.
After he was calm and I realized what he was upset about, I talked with him about using his words. I explained to him that Daddy and I didn’t know what he was upset about because he was just screaming at us and not using his words. He said “next time I use my words?” He quickly got it. I can’t say for sure he’ll remember that the next time he gets upset about something, but I will know to remind him if he starts fussing.
He started going to daycare part time a couple months ago and I guess one of the things they’re teaching them is to do things for himself. This is great because that means less that my husband and I have to do for him. Plus, it really seems to make him happy when he’s able to do something new. He just needs to work on not yelling when he doesn’t get his way. Understanding the reason why he’s fussing helps because we can anticipate him wanting to do something himself and avoid the conflict all together, or will help us to calm him down if we don’t anticipate his need to do whatever it is.
All of this is coinciding with his potty training. So far he’s using the potty and staying dry at school. He even pooped in the potty at school the other day! (Maybe TMI for those of you who don’t have a toddler in your life, but a major milestone for him.) He hasn’t gotten into the habit of going at home yet and that is causing some stress. We really want to be done with the diapers/pull-ups all together. I think some of the problem is our not wanting to clean up a mess if we put him in underwear. We need to just try it and deal with the mess for a little bit. These transitions are hard on parents too, not just the toddlers. He’s so close, though, so I’m willing to deal with the mess if it means we can move on. Jackson was pretty easy to potty train. He was fully potty trained 3 weeks before Myles was born. (But I need to stop comparing Myles to Jackson. That may cause some conflict in the future if I keep up that habit.)
It is important for us to help him learn how to express his emotions in a healthy way. Our society tells boys and men that they should “suck it up” or “be a man” by pushing those emotions down. This can lead to behavioral issues, and as I mentioned in a previous post, may lead them to use physical violence to “solve” their problems. I don’t want that for Myles and I certainly don’t want that for anyone. I know some folks will scoff at the idea of males expressing their emotions, but we’ve seen how telling them to “man up” has led to a world filled with violence. So, that’s why I am working hard to teach my fellas to identify and express their feelings in a way that helps them process through it and doesn’t hurt others. Not an easy task with all the negative messages out there about masculinity, but it’s important if we’re going to create positive change in our world.
Anybody else dealing with a fussy toddler these days? If so, I feel for you. Feel free to share your experiences in the comments section below.