Tantrums on a sailing boat

As you may have guessed by now, Orbit is a pretty typical two year old. And being a typical two year old involves tantrums.

Toddlers throwing tantrums is challenging at the best of times, but a toddler throwing a tantrum on a sailing boat adds a unique dimension to parenting. Not only because of the small space, if the tantrum is occurring down below, but also the safety factor if there is a tantrum up on deck or on the floating marina.

One of the best pieces of advice I have been given (about tantrums) is to work out why Orbit is having the tantrum in the first place. The advice has been priceless and Orbit’s tantrums have become easier avoid or manage. By working out why he is having a tantrum has allowed me to be more objective about the situation, therefore more effective when managing the tantrum (most of the time).

Orbit’s tantrums usually come back to one thing, a power struggle. Essentially, I want Orbit to do something and he doesn’t want to; or Orbit wants to do something and I don’t want him to. Sometimes he pushes the boundaries by actively deciding not to do as I ask. You can see his brain ticking over as a wicked smile crosses his little face. For me, the resulting tantrum after I have physically restrained him, is the most annoying. The result is usually a monumental tantrum and sometimes I wonder who is throwing the biggest tantrum – Orbit or me!

I have found that one of the best ways to manage the garden variety tantrum (besides making sure he has enough sleep) is to give him choices. We share the “power” of decision making. The end goal is usually still achieved, but Orbit gets to make decisions along the way. An example might be Orbit deciding which pair of socks to wear, what he would like to take on our adventure with us, and/or deciding whether to ride in the trolley or wearing a harness when walking up to/from Medina. Sometimes we don’t achieve our end goal, Orbit ends up in bed throwing his tantrum and I end up on deck working out an alternative plan.

I am definitely learning the ‘battles to fight’ and learning to compromise. Being in such a small space and with the obvious safety issues, we can’t be fighting all the time. So I am leaving the ‘battles’ to the important things where there is a safety consequence.

Luckily Orbit’s tantrums don’t last too long and he is back to his usual happy self within about 15 minutes or until he has been distracted by something else.

Each sailing family is different and am curious to hear how other parents cope with tantrums on sailing boats.

I don’t have any photos of Orbit throwing a tantrum, so I thought I would share a photo of Orbit in his favourite spot on Medina at the moment – hanging out on top of the dodger looking into the cockpit.


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