Come hang out at my house for a day and you’ll get to enjoy the occasional toddler temper tantrum. In my opinion, the thing that makes them so frustrating to deal with is not the emotions or even the behavior, it’s the attitude behind the tantrum. He wants to go to the library but it’s closed. He wants the toy in the store we weren’t there to buy. He wants to eat chocolate cake for breakfast instead of eggs (ok, maybe I can kinda understand this one).
Behind all of the tantrums is a heart that fully believes a few key things. Toddler ideology includes beliefs that:
1. The answer should always be “yes”.
2. I know what’s best for me.
3. Things in life should always operate the way I want them to.
It’s perfectly clear how unrealistic that ideology is when looking at a red-faced tiny tyrant pitching a fit over something trivial. Or something he obviously (to an adult) can’t be allowed to do because it’s not safe or maybe not even possible. (“No, sorry honey, you cannot play with the knives in the dishwasher basket…”) But truthfully, more than once while I’ve endured my kiddo crying and yelling “whyyyyy?” at me, I’ve been struck by how similarly I act. It’s rather humbling.
In my last post, I wrote about realizing getting upset when things aren’t pleasant is based in immaturity and entitlement. I covered the first one in that post, but want to also discuss the latter. Because I think entitlement pretty much describes not only toddler ideology, but sadly, mine too.
Intellectually I know those beliefs are unrealistic. And yet my heart must believe them to some degree. The evidence is that I get upset when my plans don’t work out and go smoothly. I’m irritated when I run into traffic. I’m frustrated when my kid gets sick or doesn’t sleep through the night… the list could go on and on. While I wouldn’t say I expect things to always go my way, in practice I obviously do since I get upset when they don’t.
If I truly accepted on a heart level that things are going to be unpleasant and inconvenient sometimes, surely I’d be more accepting of those times when they happen.
Realizing that in some ways, I’m not all that more mature than he is, I can have a little more compassion for my toddler’s fits. I also want to reconsider my attitude when things don’t go how I’d like. And oh yeah, chocolate for breakfast doesn’t sound like such a bad idea. I’m thinking chocolate chip pancakes and scrambled eggs would be perfect…