When toddlers lose their tempers, it can be cataclysmic, like the recent outburst from Mt. Etna (i.e. towering plume of ash, sparks, and fire visible from outer space).
Virgil described it well in the “Aeneid”: “With roar of frightful ruin, shooting out globes of flame with monster tongues screaming skyward from the nether deep…” Yup! That about sums up my son’s recent tantrum at the mall. A public tantrum with molten fury measured at over 2,000 degrees.
Question: Was Virgil describing a volcano or the fury of a profoundly dissatisfied two-year-old?
Answer: What difference does it make? It was molten hot, wasn’t it?
The good news is that most toddlers are far more amenable to human empathy than most volcanoes are. I said empathy, not logic.
Let’s cut right to the chase: Even the sociopathic Dr. Evil understands that the most important parental response to a toddler’s tantrum is acknowledging the child’s feelings during that moment of white-hot “magma” overflow. Easier said than done? Not really. Not if you think about it well ahead of time. In fact, acknowledging a child’s (or an adult’s) out-of-control emotions can actually make a volcanic situation a little less volcanic and maybe a little easier for a parent to deal with (or, failing that, a little easier to live with after the fact). That’s because all of us respond positively to having our emotions recognized by others, which recognition is not to be confused with having our inappropriate behaviors accepted. The difference is important, especially to toddlers and to middle-aged fathers hell-bent on acquiring supercharged Miata automobiles.
Try this: Try saying, “You are angry” to an angry child. Forget about adult logic. Try it! But don’t take my word for it. Take Harvey Karp’s word. He’s a pediatrician and the author of “The Happiest Toddler on the Block.” Read his book and then tell me I’m full of crap.
Volcanoes and toddlers can be dangerously hot and explosive. But they needn’t be deadly.