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New Mother

5 Toddler Temper Tantrum Triggers & How to Survive

The last couple weeks have been especially hard for our little toddler.  At 2 going on 3 years old in a few months she has been less than patient and unusually demanding from sun up to sun down.  There are moments when I can’t help but think where did we go wrong?!  What I find most interesting is that I don’t recall our oldest being quite so extreme at this age.  Now don’t get me wrong, she had her shiny moments of toddler terror but her little sister makes those days look like a walk in the park.  It is really difficult as a parent to gauge where the shift in behavior happens, nail down the exact triggers and plan a course of action.  I’ll give you an example:  I would pick my girls up last year when they attended the same pre-school/day care.  It was a great school where they had a good plan for the day and nurturing staff.  Some afternoons they would be whiny and have trouble listening to the simplest instructions.  I’m not going to lie, my initial knee jerk reaction would usually be to go into discipline mode and this usually didn’t offer much relief other than elevating their emotions and mine.  I’d rack my brain as to the various triggers.  Maybe they aren’t feeling well today? (Did I hear her cough this morning?) Maybe she didn’t nap very long? (Im pretty sure I forgot to pack her the favorite naptime blanket!) The internal dialogue can really mess with your confidence as a parent. The reality is that you can’t always be with them and especially as a working parent, it may be difficult to know exactly where to start. I find what helps me work through these days is going back to what I know well: psychology!  The study of human behavior begins at birth and there are many common patterns of behavior that when you remove the current state of ‘elevated emotions’ usually find underlining triggers in their most basic form.

So why are toddlers so emotional?

Children at this stage in development are learning vocabulary, learning to express their needs, starting to develop both positive and negative emotions and most importantly, how to express them.  They are also starting to think for themselves and this breeds the desire to do things on their own!  My daughters favorite saying is , “I do it Mommy.” While adorable in most contexts there are times that she clearly is unable to complete the task.  It is our job as parents to model positive, calm behavior even in these frustrating periods.  We are also setting boundaries and establishing the consequences of actions, both positive and negative.  Easier said than done!  Yet we can not give up on molding these young little people in to vibrant and whole adults.

These are the most common triggers of a temper tantrum and some ways to redirect or proactively ward them off! Not fool proof, but just simple things to help remove the “person from problem” and think through the best course of action.

They are Tired and Hungry

These are two basic needs that sometimes they aren’t able to articulate well and in our busy lives can sometime get out of routine. Truth be told I think most adults have their own ‘temper tantrums’ with the absence of these needs met as well.  The best course of action is age appropriate amounts of sleep as much as possible and and lots of healthy snacks on hand.  We recently went to Disney World and this is a prime example of how these two triggers can break the daily routine.  It was hot, they perhaps had a few empty calorie treats and nap time was replaced with Main Street Mickey Show.  Sound familiar?  Nevertheless, the times we plan ahead with lots of breaks, nutritious snacks and maybe even leaving the park at nap time and returning mid-afternoon through the early evening, we create a much better experience for all parties involved!

They are Over or Under-Stimulated

Lets use the analogy that they have been at daycare for the day.  They have been in a different and stimulated environment all day and now they are coming home to a relaxed and quiet place.  This change can produce emotion and depending on the child and situation can be expressed with acting out.  The best scenario is to provide routine to create the most structured environment possible.  Any one who has ever been in the same room as a toddler know that they need boundaries and constant direction.  Try to involve them in picking up the house with a mini shopping cart or identifying the ingredients in the dinner preparation. Even a simple routine like coloring in an activity book while you make dinner still establishes a plan and could help in warding off ‘meltdowns’.

You are their Place of Comfort

I recently came across this article by Kate Baltrotsky of KateSurfs.com discussing why kids tend to have worse behavior around their parents. She wrote, “YOU, dear mama, are a garbage disposal of unpleasant feelings and emotions.  If a child’s been holding it together all day, in an unpleasant situation, the second they see you, they know it’s time they can finally let go.” Maybe you can relate to the stories from grandparents or caregivers, “Little Johnny was an angel for me all day.”..or my favorite, “He’s never like that with me, I wonder whats wrong?”  It leaves you thinking as a parent, I’m whats wrong!  Or perhaps you only have precious hours in the evening and they are a constant battle.  There is really no way around this but to remember: “this too shall pass.”  Take the tantrum as a sign that you are their place of comfort and refuge.  Offer undivided attention and lots of love.  You have been given a great responsibility and honor that someday you may really miss.

They are Out of Their Routine.

All children and specifically growing toddlers need routine and structure.   This really ties into all of these aforementioned triggers and it is so very crucial.  The routine needs to start from when they wake to when they sleep.  Even a routine around correcting the misguided emotions.  There are many schools of thought around how to correct/ignore this behavior and I have listed some of my personal favorite resources below.  The most important piece is consistency and follow-through on your behalf as the parent.

Remove the Stimulus

I know this seems simple again, but if your toddler acts out because they can’t have their sisters tablet…remove the tablet and allow the older child another space or place to play!  Or if they have melt downs at Target because you always go on the weekends mid day approaching nap time…go at a different time!  We are creatures of habit as well and the best thing we can do is take a step back and start to look for patterns of behavior in our children and in our own routine.  Don’t get me wrong, your children should not dictate your entire day or plans, I’m simply suggesting modifying your schedule and making deliberate choices that reduce the repeat stimulus causing frustration.

Remember the days are long but the years are short.  Parenting is the toughest job I have and I would venture to guess many of you would tend to agree.  It will not be easy but it will be worth it. Build up a support network, do your best to get on the same page with other adults and caregivers in the child’s life and have a plan.  Some days, that plan for the day may be just simply to get through the day…and that is perfectly acceptable!

Harvey Karp M.D. the same author as The Happiest Baby on the Block wrote “The Happiest Toddler on the Block

 

I would also recommend “How Toddler Thrive” by Tovah Klein M.D.

 

How to Continue Breastfeeding After Returning to Work : Like a Boss!

Yes, I am bringing up the topic that many mothers fear to discuss.  Breastfeeding.  It seems in the last decade it has been continually a hot topic of conversation among mothers, media and contributed to much unnecessary mayhem everywhere.  Outside of the beauty that is childbirth, mothers are then facing diffculty taking the proper time to bond, heal and even have time to establish breastfeeding. Women in the United States as a whole really struggle to have maternity leave and job protection should they choose to return to work.  An invesigative study for In These Times by Abt Associates, wrote, “…a 2012 survey it conducted for the Department of Labor of 2,852 employees who had taken family or medical leave in the last year, looking specifically at the 93 women who took time off work to care for a new baby.  Nearly 12 percent of those women took off only a week or less. Another 11 percent took between one and two weeks off. That means that about 23 percent—nearly 1 in 4—of the women interviewed were back at work within two weeks of giving birth.   The educational divide between those who took shorter and relatively longer leaves is striking: 80 percent of college graduates took at least six weeks off to care for a new baby, but only 54 percent of women without college degrees did so.”

I was blessed to have 12-weeks maternity leave with both of our girls.  This is actually a small amount of time compared to some countries that offer 9 to 18 months or longer! I hope that someday that period of bonding between mother and baby can be extended as it is some of the most important and delicate time.  There are numerous emotions, fears and sometimes guilt.  For mothers who are breastfeeding it also begins another task of discovering how to now divide your day between baby, body and bookkeeping.  My journey through breastfeeding was not easy with either one of my children. Without going into great detail, I read and educated myself with countless tips and knowledge, went to classes and even hired lactation consultants. It was a beautiful struggle through the entire 4 months I was able to breastfeed with my first and 6 months with my second.  I would not change one day of it but I will not fool you into thinking it was an easy task for me.  I was so proud of what I was able to offer my girls and didn’t want to lose that on account of returning to work.

Your mind is focusing on that precious baby, your heart is focused on providing for them and your current surroundings are focused on doing the job others depend on you to do.  I can assure you without a doubt this was in my lifetime thus far the hardest thing I have ever done, not just once, but twice.  The first couple weeks will be hard but it will get easier.  You will start to create a routine and truly value the time you spend with the little bundle of joy.  Today our family is complete and I have healthy, vibrant and smart 5 and 2 year old girls.  I want to share with you what I learned through this experience as encouragement and advice to working mothers.  Whether you are expecting or know someone that is, I encourage you to read and share these tips knowing you’re not alone on this journey that so many other women have also voyaged before and will continue for years to come.

 

Know Your Rights

It is important to do your homework early on and know what your company offers in the way of Maternity and Parental Leave. The Family & Medical Leave Act allows 12 weeks of unpaid leave for companies with greater than 50 employees and you have to have been employed for over a year.  Make it your intention to do your research and envision what will work for you and your family. Talk to others, maybe even you employer, and plan ahead.  Pregnancy and childbirth are very unpredictable, so try to eliminate any surprises early on to get the most time establishing a routine with the new family addition.

Set Your Intentions

Set your intentions to breastfeed and ask for help! Remind yourself consistently why this is important and how it is benefiting you and baby.  I recall also reminding myself that “This is only temporary.”  As beautiful as it was, the days were long and at the end of the day I was exhausted. I can assure you everyone will offer advice from all over, both solicited and unsolicited.  As you are making a plan to return to work detail out what questions you have weeks before that first day back as you seek to put your mind at ease before that first day.  Begin pumping several weeks prior to get your body used to it, build up a supply if you can and feel comfortable with the device. Not all devices are created equal.  I do not claim to be an expert on pumps but outside of the hospital grade which was hands down the best for home use, try Medela.  Now you can even get one for free through some insurance plans because of the Affordable Care Act. I eventually had to supplement and so I also did my research on that too.  I highly recommend looking into reputable donation banks or making your own formula if you have the time and dedication to research and do it correctly.  I also recommend Earths Best Organic as my daughter did well with this brand.

Don’t be Ashamed

With my oldest, the most private space offered for me after returning to work was a powder room attached to a women’s employee bathroom.  Looking back, I should have asked for more privacy but I made it work.  It was awkward the first couple of days and I tried my best to downplay how uncomfortable it was around my colleagues, but I’m sure it showed.  Don’t be ashamed of what you are providing for your little love and if the options given to you make you feel that way keep pressing until you are able to create an environment that makes you feel comfortable and secure.

Eat Well, Often and Continue with Frequent Hydration

This is truly an important part of your day!  When you pack up your accessories the night prior also pack a healthy lunch, snacks and a water bottle!  Eat a good protein filled breakfast and start your H20 consumption before you even leave the house.  From personal experience, when your day starts to pick up with distractions you may get away from remember to nourish your body consistently.  Your body still requires extra calories and healthy fats and you will burn upwards of 500 calories breastfeeding each day!  Here are just a few ides of healthy snack options best for new mamas!

Hummus and Carrots

Greek Yogurt

Oatmeal

Nuts

Salmon Salad  & Whole Grain Crackers

Realize the Example you are Setting for Other Women

You may never really know just who you are inspiring and the example that it is setting for them as mothers to be as well.  You may already be viewed as a leader or mentor to others and the stigma that is still associated with breastfeeding and to a degree even being a mother in the workplace, can only be changed by women who continue to set the example for other women.

Know Your Body and Your Limits

Please do everything in your power to take it easy those first couple weeks.  Everyone will be requiring your attention, asking questions and in general may just be excited to have you back. Remember that you have just went through a life changing event and right now simple is best.  Don’t jump right back into over extending yourself, working early or late hours and taking on additional stress.  Stress can be a major hindrance to a woman who is still feeding and you can not be everything to everyone all the time.  Ease back into your new routine and be flexible as it will take time.

Becoming a mother in many ways has made me a better employee.  I learned the value of routine, patience and now discipline.  Believe it or not, these are all transferable skill sets that have helped me up my game on the career front.  I hope you will share in that experience as well.  You will be amazed at what you can accomplish each and every day but it starts with believing in you.

Tell me about your experience!  I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.