Finding Compassion in the Midst of a Toddler Tantrum

In the midst of my 2-year old’s tantrum, I found compassion.

It’s a little hard to admit that I’m not always the most patient person when it comes to my children’s tantrums. The timing is never good. The screaming starts exactly when it’s time to walk out the door, eat lunch or dinner, right before bedtime,  in the middle of the grocery store, as you are taking an important phone call, or trying to talk to a friend.

My first response is often thinking about the inconvenience and myself.  This tantrum is now going to make us late, dinner is on the table, last thing I want to do is deal with this tantrum right now, etc.

But, I’ve realized that compassion is a much better first response.

My 2-year old was having a major meltdown because she wanted to watch a show. It was time for lunch. She was very upset and calmed down a little when I held her, but did not calm down enough to eat lunch.  I suggested we read a few books first.

I carried her into the other room, we got the books out and then she yelled and threw the books on the ground. She was not happy.  She was really angry and very upset.

Staring at her pouting face with crossed arms and tears running down her cheeks, I had a strong sense of empathy for her. I realized that even though she is 2 and I am 37, we really aren’t all that different.

None of us are. No matter what our age, gender, race, socio-economic status, we are all humans. We all have feelings. We all suffer. We all have hard days. We all want to be loved.

We are not alone. 

I hugged her very tightly and told her it was o.k. I understood. She looked up at me with her sweet eyes and cried. But, she calmed down and wanted to read books.

Coincidentally Perfectly, the book she had picked out was “My Many Colored Days” by Dr. Seuss.

“You’d be surprised how many ways I change on different colored days.

On Purple days I’m sad. I groan. I drag my tail.

But when my days are Happy pink, it’s great to Jump and just not think.

Then come my Black Days. Mad. and LOUD. I howl. I growl at every cloud.

But it all turns out all right you see. And I go back to being…me!”

She is too young understand the meaning of Dr. Seuss’s book and even what her feelings mean, but she seemed to understand compassion. Maybe we all need to be a little more compassionate of each other and especially, ourselves.

Hopefully, one day my daughter will understand and express her feelings in a healthy way. I know that all I can do is try to continue to teach her and model healthy ways to express our feelings. (Yelling, “I’m mad!” is o.k., yelling, “You are the worst mom in the world” is not. Hitting a pillow is o.k., hitting your sister is not!)

Today, I am grateful for the reminder found in my toddler’s tantrum to be compassionate with others and myself. The reminder to use empathy as a first response when someone else is going through a hard time. To be non-judgmental and understanding, instead of irritated and critical.

I am grateful for the reminder that it is o.k. to feel whatever you are feeling.  It is good to express our feelings in healthy ways, so it doesn’t get bottled inside. Our feelings are just that, feelings, they don’t define us. Once you acknowledge them and deal with them,  “it all turns our all right you see. And I go back to being…me!”


toddler tantrums, compassion

 Love and compassion,