Dealing with Toddler Tantrums – The Shoe Episode

The other morning as we got ready for nursery, late (again), it came to putting our shoes on time. An inane, yet vitally important, task when leaving the house.

We have a choice of two shoes. Both red. I chose first and put them on.

Cue much wailing and actual real tears as he brings me his “other shoes” to put on.

Cue dealing with Toddler Tantrums on the nursery run.

I am huffing, puffing and groaning. The baby is in his car seat and gearing up to kick off because he hates the car seat. Pulling one pair of shoes off and shoving the other pair on.

Rushing them both to the door.

The toddler still dissolving in tears.

Joined by hiccups.

We are now 15 minutes late.

“I want the other shoes”

Quietly at first. Getting louder. And more repetitive.

“The other shoes”
“I want the OTHER shoes”
“The other shoes”

Wrestling them both into the car for the 10 minute journey to nursery where the wailing cry has been joined by snot bubbles.


And then the rhythmic kicking of the car seat joining in.


*thump thump*


*thump thump*

On the whole, short, ten minute drive to nursery. Over and over. Shout. Thump. Shout. Thump.

I ignored the shouting.

I ignored the thumping.

Teeth gritted. Hands curled around the steering wheel. Knuckles white.

Not helped by the fact I was running on empty from being up from 5:30am. Random sentences bursting out of my mouth as I tried to keep calm control of the situation.

“What do you think you’ll do at nursery today?”
“Maybe you’ll do painting”
“Or singing, you like singing”

Depositing the still tearful child at nursery, who managed to raise a watery smile and a kiss and a love.

On the drive home, blood pressure still raised, baby gurgling in the car seat I started to calm down.

It wasn’t about the shoes.

It was about control. He wanted control over something. In his life he has control over nothing. We decide when and what he should eat. What time bedtime is. Where we go out. When we go out. I tried to give him some control by letting him choose but I didn’t give him time to process his decision. Time to make his decision.

I gave him control then snatched it back.

It wasn’t about the shoes.

It was that he was tired (no surprises there being up since 5:30am) and didn’t know how to deal with it. That his head was running at a million miles an hour and he didn’t know what else to do. That he was so tired the little things became the big things.

I was tired too. So tired and rushing I didn’t stop to think he might be on a short fuse too.

It wasn’t about the shoes

He just couldn’t verbalize what it was about.

It wasn’t about the shoes.

The shoes were the catalyst. Something minor. Something to tantrum over.

It’s never about the shoes.

I just needed to stop and listen and work out what it was about.

Yes sometimes it will be something that seems insignificant – to me – to them it’s important. And so it’s important to listen. To try to understand their perspective. To remember they are only human.

And that I am too.

Tantrums will happen. They will infuriate. I won’t get it right every time. Heck I don’t get it right half of the time. But as long as I keep learning, I keep listening, I keep on loving then I am doing OK.

I am doing OK.

And you are too.

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday


  1. November 13, 2015 / 3:45 pm

    Oh I feel you, I really do, sounds very much like our household and I then want to lock myself in a cupboard and never come out! Ha. Thanks for hosting #effitfriday

  2. November 13, 2015 / 4:30 pm

    You are doing okay. It’s hard though because sometimes you just need to get on and toddlers have no concept of time.

  3. November 13, 2015 / 6:33 pm

    My toddler won’t wear his new yellow jacket at the moment because Grandma swapped him into the red one on bonfire night as it wasn’t thick enough according to her – that’s a whole other rant #effitfriday

  4. November 13, 2015 / 10:02 pm

    A different scenario from you, but I find I have to remember and work with this when im at work. Many of the guys I look after have limited speach, and delays im processing information, so an outburst at lunchtime may actually have nothing to do with what food they have just been given (even though that plate of food may now be on the floor). We have to look past the obvious when trying to identify the causes of behaviour. #Effitfriday

    • Laura
      November 17, 2015 / 8:04 pm

      I think that’s the thing with everyone actually, the whole straw that broke the camels back except I’m better placed to verbalize what’s wrong with me. My tantrums aren’t about the shoes either.

  5. November 13, 2015 / 10:29 pm

    Marianna’s still a bit young yet but we’re not far away from toddler tantrums. My mum tells the story to this day of how I insisted on wearing the same pair of shoes everyday until my dad had to cut the toes out of them because they were too small. It solved the problem of me wanting to wear them, at any rate…. šŸ™‚ #effitfriday

    • Laura
      November 17, 2015 / 8:04 pm

      Ooh I wonder if that would work? Breaking them!

  6. November 15, 2015 / 4:16 pm

    My son is 3.5 and has speech and language delay so we have very frequent tantrums. Up to ten a day or more and this fortnight has been particularly bad. Some of his tantrums at due to sheer frustration but most of them are definately about control. It’s such a fine line between letting them make choices and allowing them to take complete control though isn’t it. I TRY not to sweat the small stuff (like shoes) but it’s so hard when you’re in a rush. But you’re right. I very much doubt it was about the shoes at all.

    Thanks for hosting #effitfridays

    • Laura
      November 17, 2015 / 8:08 pm

      I agree. They need some control; like over the small stuff. But we need to remember we are the adults and we know what’s best (most of the time) xx

  7. November 16, 2015 / 1:49 am

    Oh, I know this situation. And it really is rarely about the shoes.
    I don’t even bother having discussions or arguments about things like that any more with Little Miss A; it was just causing too many meltdowns and, you’re right, they just want a little bit of control in their world…I figure why not let them have it!

    • Laura
      November 17, 2015 / 8:26 pm

      We had multiple meltdowns and now I definitely pick my battles

  8. November 16, 2015 / 2:59 am

    There’s always more to the tantrums than meets the eye. Tin Box Tot is going through a difficult stage of being able to tell us what she wants but not quick enough. The world must seem very unfair. I must remember to slow things down a bit for her and listen! #KCACOLS

    • Laura
      November 17, 2015 / 8:28 pm

      I find that sometimes he doesn’t have the words to say what he wants so it all dissolves into tears quickly!

  9. November 16, 2015 / 9:58 am

    Good on you mum! I’ve not quite entered the toddler tantrum stage yet, by son is 14 months old. But I worked as a teacher (mainstream and special needs) for over a decade so have worked closely with children with limited communication for quite a while.
    We do need to listen to our children and it’s not always about the obvious thing staring us in the face.
    I loved this post. I love your humbleness! I love your honesty.

    • Laura
      November 17, 2015 / 8:32 pm

      Thank you. Hindsight and time to calm down helped give me some perspective. I’m trying to remember this with each subsequent tantrum though! X

  10. November 16, 2015 / 11:33 am

    Such a great perspective, it’s all about control or lack of. There’s a great meme about that shows you must accept any gift your child gives you and treasure it, even if it’s a stone or twig because it’s all they have to give you. Thanks for linking up to #KCACOLS, hope to see you again next week x

    • Laura
      November 17, 2015 / 8:34 pm

      Ooh I’ll have to look up that meme that sounds beautiful. And oh so true. X

  11. November 16, 2015 / 4:34 pm

    Oh goodness me it sounds like you really had a hard time of it that morning. I agree sometimes the reason for their tantrums do run a lot deeper. Can you imagine how frustrating it must be for them that they aren’t able to express themselves that easily. Xx #KCACOLS

  12. November 17, 2015 / 3:35 am

    Ahh I had to chuckle to myself as I read this post as it could easily be me! This morning we had a massive toddler tantrum because I made Mia’s bed up and apparently she wanted to do it! I unmade it and told her she could do it which led to another tantrum because she didn’t want to do it?! I, like you, find myself gritting my teeth and trying to distract them with something on the radio or the tv or just talking over through the moaning! so tiring! I hope it ends soon šŸ™‚


  13. November 17, 2015 / 4:11 am

    I really like what you wrote here. Because you are so right. It’s never about the shoes. When we stress a small person gets stressed too and the brain sort of goes into broken record player mode and the repeating of words happen. We have that too sometimes. It’s hard when it hits because you can clearly see they are trying desperately to tell you something, but they just can’t. I find that stopping completely and giving a cuddle helps a lot with my two small ones. šŸ™‚

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