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My Difficult Toddler Turned Out To Be My Most Laid-Back Kid

Take heart, moms of toddlers!

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My difficult toddler turned out to be my most laid-back kid.
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When my oldest was in kindergarten, I had to go inside the school to pick him up, with his little brother in tow. I am not exaggerating when I say that every single day while waiting in the hallway with the other parents and siblings, my two-year-old would have an epic meltdown. He’d go limp, scream and cry, and try to hit me if I tried to hold him in my arms. If I put him down on the floor, he’d roll around, kick, and disrupt everyone else who was quietly waiting.

Parents witnessed my child telling me he hated me and losing it on a daily basis. It was horrible and humiliating.

His behavior wasn’t exclusive to school pick-up either. Every time we went to the grocery store, library, or playground, as soon as he’d had enough and was ready to leave, he’d explode. Even if we were doing something he'd asked us to do.

Extended family gatherings were challenging too, and my family would ask me why he was the way he was. My two older kids were laid back and hardly ever had tantrums in public.

My youngest also had night terrors, took a long time to potty train, and would go from being happy to grumpy in a split second.

It got to the point where we barely did anything because his behavior took the fun out of every situation. He cried when we went out to eat. He didn’t like crowds, so attending parades and fairs always ended terribly. He hated being away from home for too long, and if he got hungry and I didn’t have a snack, whew. It was incredibly difficult on his two older siblings, because they never knew when their fun would be cut short. A lot of the time, my husband and I had to divide and conquer.

It wasn’t like he wanted material things or acted up if he didn’t get what he wanted. I realized when he was about 4 years old that it was simply that if he got overwhelmed or had too much stimulation, he’d shut down. He’d scream, cry, and throw himself around. He didn’t care where he was. He was done, and he let us know. Loudly.

But here’s the interesting part: My son is now almost 17, and I can honestly tell you, he is more laid back and calm than his two older siblings. He’s my steady kid. I always know what to expect from him. He’s stoic, loves spending time alone, and seems more centered than anyone I’ve ever met.

I’ve talked to him about this a few times. He’s told me he never gets mad because there’s no point. He has a good sense of what's important in his life and easily recognizes triggers that may set him off, and he adjusts accordingly.

This didn’t happen because of anything I did. I honestly think he figured out that he’s a deeply feeling person who values his solitude. When he was younger and he was threatened, he didn’t have the words to tell me. Now that he’s older, he can decide who he spends time with and if he wants to go somewhere or not.

I guess you could say he gets to be who he’s always wanted to be.

So if you’re struggling with a difficult toddler, don’t let anyone make you feel ashamed and embarrassed about it. My son was trying to tell me something through those temper tantrums. And when I finally saw what he needed, he completely changed and became a confident, content boy.

Difficult toddlers don’t always grow up to be difficult kids. They have a different way of expressing themselves. And if we pay attention and help instead of punishing them, it can be life-changing for them and you.

Diana Park is a writer who finds solitude in a good book, the ocean, and eating fast food with her kids.

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