Why is my toddler crying?

Here are a collection of anecdotes about the breakdown of communication where I misunderstood the desired outcome which resulted in upset feelings:

Photo by mohamed Abdelgaffar on Pexels.com
  • Fleur handed me a banana saying, “do this.” When I started to peel it, she wailed.
  • She asked me for strawberry oatmeal. Like the dozens of times before I poured pecans into it. She howled about them.
  • She asked to watch Frozen. So, I clicked on Frozen. The screaming was because she wanted Christmas Frozen. (aka Olaf’s Frozen Adventure.)
  • The past three times she has had a particular food, it has resulted in her needing to be held because her tummy hurts. But, it is sweet, so she wants it. When I say no, she throws herself on the floor with intense crying and tears and hurt.
  • The prize for potty training is candy which often gets dropped on the ground, making it inedible but that doesn’t mesh with the prize loss. Inconsolable. Until I replace or wash it, nothing else can be done.

A Calming Brain Game

We are starting to see the tantrum behaviors manifest. As she has more autonomy through self-movement and develops preferences, sometimes we run into conflicts over wants. At present, these tantrums make me laugh because mainly they manifest as a little shuffle of her feet and the upset face. Occasionally Fleur lays down on the floor. Limited throwing, hitting, kicking, and screaming so far.

This Lifehacker article: Help Kids Calm Down With a ‘Brain Game’ looks interesting.

  1. Get their attention: They are consumed by their emotions, so it may be required to use a strange stimulus like a Light Switch Rave [1], jumping  up and down, or making a silly noise.
  2. Offer: Whisper… “Hey, do you want to play a little game really quick? It will be fun.”
  3. The Game: “Can you point out <number> things that are <property>?” Do a few of these until has a big smile.
  4. Explain what you intended that caused the meltdown. (Build empathy.)

Essentially, the amygdala reacted. They won’t have a fully developed pre-frontal cortex to properly manage the amygdala until their 20s. So, need to help them interrupt the amygdala by leveraging to hippocampus and memory cortex to distract the amygdala long enough for us to explain.

[1] That was a Strong Bad email #45 from Homestarr Runner reference.