It was a particularly difficult morning where Riley threw an epic tantrum on the way to school in the car. One moment he wanted to go to school, the next moment he was screaming for me to drive home. At first I could not wrap my head around it. Trying to think straight in the midst of a toddler shouting at the top of his voice is like trying to meditate in a dance club. I had to stop the car, step out and gather myself for a few seconds, OK maybe it was more like a few minutes. So glad cars tend to almost be sound proof from the outside =p
It then dawned on me that he was having a soul fever day. I had had a huge argument with the hubs the night before. Even though we had not quarrel in his presence, he must have heard the commotion. And this probably frightened him enough to manifest as a tantrum. My pre simplicity parenting self would have shrug it off as just another tantrum and pack him off to school. But post simplicity parenting has made me more astute to his emotional imbalances, and this was clearly a soul fever. Just like a physical fever, soul fevers occur when a toddler’s body is out of whack, or in this case, his emotions.
He was clearly overwhelmed and confused. I knew I had to take him out of his normal routine and quiet things down for him. So I took urgent leave from work and took him out of school.
We spent a quiet day playing at his favorite park. Taking a break from the heat, we settled down for some lunch and much needed rest. It was in the quiet of this moment that we were inspired to draw on the back of the restaurant receipt, making a toy in under one minute. This occupied him for a good hour as we explored drawing different faces and shared a few giggles while learning how to make different expressions. What had started off as a disastrous day had now turned into an opportunity of connection and simple learning.
I knew everything was back to normal when he gave me the biggest hug as we were leaving to go home, saying ‘I love you mummy’.
That night, I did not have a serious conversation with him about his feelings, my feelings or explained what transpired between daddy and I during last night’s quarrel. Because at 3 years of age, explaining such complex concepts would only frighten him about the stresses of the adult world. My husband and I made it a point to show him we had made up. At 3 years old, he just needs to know that he is loved and his world is secured and safe with us, his parents firmly in the driver’s seat.
So the next time your toddler throws a hissy fit, do take a few moments to consider maybe something external has tipped his world topsy turvy that needs realignment. Toddlers between the ages of 3 – 5 are still figuring out how to express their emotions accurately with their limited vocabulary. Outbursts are often mistaken for misbehavior when it is actually just an expression of fear and frustration.
Learn more about what a soul fever is here, how to recognize when they occur and how using simplification can reduce future toddler tantrums.