Q&A: 12-month flip-out?

Julia writes:

"My daughter will reach one year in just a few short weeks.  She's made some amazing developmental leaps recently, including walking (completely independently, and quite quickly, I might add) and talking.  She's been so much fun lately I can hardly describe it.  But then yesterday she began acting, um, weird, for lack of a better descriptor.

She's figured out that she can "ask" for something by pointing to it and saying "that! that!" repeatedly until "that" is handed to her.  With this skill, she's also realized that she doesn't always get what she wants.  She's begun throwing what seem to be the beginning of temper tantrums.  They aren't bad, but they're frustrating.  I know she's just upset over that lack of control over her environment.  But is that all? She's also been super clingy, approaching me with her blankie in hand for some hugging and then not wanting me to put her down.  She's been really tired - in fact, since she began toddling she's reverted to three hour-ish naps a day, and an earlier bedtime.  Yesterday, her funky mood was bad enough and persistent enough to get me really down.  (All add here that I think my hormones are doing their own special number on me, as well.)  Today she's already exhibiting much of the same behavior. I'd rather not be in tears by noon.

In the past you'd mentioned the book Wonder Weeks.  But the book only goes through 14 months, so I never coughed up the change to get it.  Is this time frame a common one for freakouts?  If so, I think I can get through it more easily knowing there will be an end to it shortly.

Are there other tips you might have for controling mini-temper-tantrums at this young age?  Or for any of her other weirdness?"

I think part of the clinginess is directly related to her newfound walking skills. Many kids need to come back to you as soon as they can leave you. So once they master walking they go through a clingy phase. Annoying, but it means she's really attached to you.

I'm not sure which one of the Wonder Week periods she fits into right now. There's one from 40-44 weeks (and she was born at 38 weeks IIRC, so that would be 42-46 weeks for her), and one from 49-53 weeks (or 51-55 weeks for her).

The earlier one is when she learns about sequences, or that she can put things together (putting one block on top of another, for example). The symptoms the book lists that happen before this leap are, in part:

Cries more often and is bad-tempered or cranky
Is cheerful one moment and cries the next
Wants to be kept busy
Clings to your clothes, or wants to be close to you
Throws temper tantrums
Wants physical contact to be tighter or closer than before
etc.

The later leap is when she learns about patterns, or that there is a goal that requires steps to achieve (like setting the table, for example). The symptoms the book lists that happen before this leap are, in part:

Cries more often and is bad-tempered or cranky
Is cheerful one moment and cries the next
Wants to be kept busy
Clings to your clothes, or wants to be close to you
Throws temper tantrums
Wants physical contact to be tighter or closer than before
etc.

So, yeah. It definitely sounds like it's part of a developmental leap, although I'm sure the walking has something to do with it, too. Are you signing with her? That might help her cut down on some of her frustration about the words she doesn't have the motor skills to say yet.

The general tantrum-aversion tips I can give are to try to remove all elements of control from the situation so it isn't a power struggle of her vs. you. ("It's time to put your pajamas on now." vs. "I want you to put your pajamas on now.") When she's a little older you'll be able to give her choices ("It's time to put your pajamas on now. Do you want to wear the red ones or the blue ones?") Make things silly whenever you can. And keep on using the distraction that's been working so well for so long.

But basically, I think you're going to have to wait this one out. In a week or two she'll probably be her old sweet self, but smarter because of the leap, of course.

Congratulations on making it through the first year! Onward and upward.