Let's be honest for a second: babies and toddlers cry an awful lot. And if you're even half human, there have probably been times when you've wanted to glue your ears shut. Maybe you've yelled, maybe you've put your child (or yourself) in time out more often than you'd like to admit. It's OK, we won't judge. But if you're looking for some of the deeper reasons your toddler might be crying, you're in the right place.
Babies cry for four main reasons: they're hungry, over-stimulated, over-tired or they need reassurance. On the plus side, although they look much bigger and want to do everything themselves (who hasn't heard "I DO IT!!" yelled a million times a day?) toddlers are a lot like babies. They cry for roughly the same set of reasons.
Say you're at a playdate and your adorable two-and-a-half year old toddler is biting and smacking a child she usually loves to play with. You're mortified, yell at her to stop, and she bursts into tears. Sounds familiar? Your reaction might be slightly different (managed to escape without yelling? Great job!) but the scene is probably familiar. Before you respond, run your mind back over the day, and even the week she's had. Has she slept well? Has she eaten recently? Have there been any issues or changes that might have upset her recently? Just thinking back can give you a lot of insight into what has triggered her behaviour.
As with all things baby and toddler, if your child's behaviour is consistently bad or worrying you, it's best to check in with your doctor or pediatrician. For example, symptoms like poor sleep, snoring, mouth-breathing, and issues with concentration and behaviour can be traced back to sleep apnea. Sleep apnea causes a person to stop breathing frequently throughout the night. If you or your doctor is concerned about sleep apnea, check out a breathing monitor like the Snuza HeroMD, the only medically certified wearable baby breathing monitor in Europe, which will alert you about weak or infrequent breathing.
Once you've ruled out a medical condition, and figured out the source (or as near as you can get it), you can act on it. Tired? Politely excuse yourself, and give her the chance to rest without shame. Hungry? A snack can completely change the course of an afternoon (and if yours is a picky eater, sometimes eating with a friend helps to turn that tide, too). If it's a case of overwhelmed or in need of reassurance, well, you're the perfect person for the job. Calm acceptance of her emotional storms, hanging out quietly while she rages, and being there for a cuddle and kiss at the end are the perfect antidote.
Try to separate her behaviour from yourself, knowing that it's no reflection on you if she's having a tantrum. Children are children. They're adorable but volatile little people with very poor impulse control. It's our job as parents to help them develop that control, but it doesn't happen overnight. Anyone with a child can tell you that there will be days you wonder if you're doing anything right. But we're here to tell you that you are. Your child's behaviour isn't a reflection on you. Your child is young, and it's normal for behaviour to be all over the place. So cut yourself some slack and know that it's not you, it's them. Then ride it out and be there for cuddles at the end. You've got this.