Finding beauty in the toddler tantrum

My husband and I were certain that all of the reading we did while I was pregnant prepared us to be great parents. Our daughter came along and was a shining example of our excellent parenting. Then, our son arrived and blew that theory apart.

Trouble brewing

Honestly, I should have seen it coming.

He resisted his jacket when I took him out of his car seat and fought me when I reached for his hand in the parking lot.

When I insisted, he pulled and yanked, trying to escape my grip.

As we approached the doors and he caught sight of the shopping cart, he immediately began shouting “No! No cart! I walk!” Then he did what 2-year-olds are so good at doing. He dropped to the floor and went completely stiff.

When I tried to pick him up, he kicked and flailed with fierce determination.

Learn how to deal with a toddler tantrum >>

Flashbacks to an easier time

And in that moment, I flashed back to Target visits with his older sister Katie when she was his age. The memories of her sitting like an angel in the cart are so vivid to me, even now.

"I love that Katie and Matthew are so different from one another."

Katie has always been such a compliant child. She has thrived on pleasing us and has always been so good at listening to reason.

For the first few years of her life, my husband and I were quite certain that we were the best parents ever. Clearly it was our extraordinary parenting that made her such an easy child, right?

I recall that our biggest concern about her growing personality was that she wasn’t terribly perseverant. We tried to bring that out in her so that she when she wanted something badly enough, she would stand firm.

We actually wanted her to be stubborn.

Theories, disproved

Then, when Matthew came along, we slowly began to realize that we wouldn’t be writing any parenting manuals anytime soon.

From the very beginning, he challenged us in ways that Katie never had.

And as difficult as that is, it’s also quite lovely.

I’m grateful to him because we have in him the opportunity to parent a child who is quite different than his sister. The highs and lows are more extreme with him and it makes me truly appreciate who he is.

While we thought we had all of the answers with Katie, he is showing us that we never really did.

Should you ever negotiate with a toddler? >>

Blessings, discovered

Matthew is giving us the opportunity to face challenges that ask us to problem solve and grow as parents. Our parenting toolbox has gotten pretty full since he came along.

And I’m grateful to his sister because she gave us nearly three years where we felt as though we were just inherently gifted at this parenting thing. Oh, how ignorance was bliss.

I love that Katie and Matthew are so different from one another and I’m finding joy in every step of this journey with each of them.

Even when that means watching one of those children have a complete meltdown on a filthy floor in the middle of Target while the other one is pointing out her brother's inappropriate behavior.

More on parenting siblings

Don't treat siblings equally, treat them fairly
Preparing for a new sibling's arrival
Sibling appreciation parties


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Comments on "Practicing Gratitude: Tantrums at Target"

Peggy November 12, 2012 | 2:59 PM

Oh how we all like to think that we will be the perfect parents, and not make the mistakes that THOSE other parents obviously made. Then along come our darlings, to prove us wrong. It's good to keep a sense of humor during this parenting gig.

Erin November 12, 2012 | 10:19 AM

Great, practical advice. Thank you! I think it's really important to not expect "perfect" textbook children. They are all different and we have to learn to appreciate the good. Kids will eventually grow out of the temper-tantrum phase, so as annoying and frustrating as it may be, I'm sure you will end up missing it!

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