Tantrums – and Mind Reading

I had mentally prepared myself for the Terrible Twos. I thought there would be fearsome battles over “I want another biscuit!” or “No, I don’t want to go to bed!” I thought I would win them with Logic and Being the Parent and by standing firm. I was not prepared, however, for shrieking tantrums caused by my son’s disappointment at a lack of evolutionary advancement on my part.

Let me explain.

The Toddler is lying facedown on the – not very clean – floor, screaming, kicking, crying. There are actual tears. If I come near him, he starts to mow his arms about to try and hit me. Just before he launched into this rather theatrical display of displeasure, we had the following conversation:

Me: Would you like porridge for breakfast?
Toddler: No, Mummy.
Me: What would you like to eat then?

Cue tantrum. What is going on?

It seems similar to the tantrums he has when, out of blue, he says: “Again, Mummy,” without specifying what; or “Pleeeeeease, Mummy,” without asking for anything. Attempts to clarify what he wants dial up the rage. He does not understand “What did you say?” or “What do you want?” and seems to interpret them as ‘Mummy will not acquiesce to my request’.

The Toddler has always been quite prone to extreme frustration. He would shriek and cry in the days when he could not move around yet but desperately needed to reach a particular toy. Later on, building a tower or putting train track together would reduce him to tears. In fact, I had to teach him to say “Mummy, help!” very early on, to deal with the constant shrieking that accompanied a task he had set himself but could not complete due to his own physical or developmental limitations.

Now he is frustrated at mine. Is he waiting for me to develop mind reading skills?

Slowly, the breakfast-options-tantrum subsides a little, and now when I come close his arms don’t wave about but they stretch up to me. He wants to be held. I kneel down and he climbs onto my lap where I hug him close until he stops sobbing. Over my shoulder, his eye falls on the remote control: “TV, Mummy?” he asks sweetly.

Everything is back to normal.


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