Friday, February 15, 2008

Temper, temper

I was just thinking about how when my son was a baby, he cried a lot. But usually it was for a reason. He was hungry, and he couldn't speak to tell me. Or he was tired. Or hungry. Or poopy. Or lonely. Or hungry. Usually hungry. The boy could eat. (Still can.)

Now, at almost 22 months of age, William typically cries for one of two reasons: 1) he is exhausted, or 2) he isn't getting his way. Or sometimes, we hit the trifecta: a combination of numbers one and two.

William threw the mother of all temper tantrums tonight. And yes, I think it was a Category 3 storm.

Hurricane William started before bathtime, gathered steam during the bath and worked into a full throttle on the changing table. I still don't really know what caused it. I think he was mad that I cut short his usual Nude Olympics around the second floor, when he joyfully runs laps around the bedrooms and hallway before we finally plunk him into the tub. And I think he was also mad that his daddy was having to take Mommy pager calls in our bedroom, thus not giving William his undivided attention, which William is accustomed to at bathtime. And finally, William had a long day today. He was up early, he went to school, and then he ran errands with Mommy. He even gasp tried on clothes at Old Navy, which actually didn't go nearly as badly as you may have thought. So I'd say it was a safe bet that he was pretty darn tired.

He finally calmed down when David came back into his bedroom. I was trying to wrestle him, kicking and screaming, into his monkey jammies, without much success. He even rolled off the changing table at one point because he was so mad with anger. He didn't hurt himself; he mostly just turned over and then slithered his way down, the same way he gets down off the sofa. But he was apoplectic while he did it. And I can't be sure, but I think the ceiling fan may have been shaking. But as soon as William saw David, the wind died down. And while the tears still ran down his red cheeks, William stopped howling and thrashing. The boys settled into the rocker and read books, while I collapsed on the floor. Why is it that temper tantrums wear the moms out as much as they exhaust the person who actually throws them? And why was the sight of David enough to calm him down when none of my attempts at calming him down worked at all?

I still haven't figured out the perfect strategy for dealing with temper tantrums. Yelling doesn't work. Making threats ("I won't read you Mother Goose before bed tonight!") really doesn't work, either. Even offering a bribe, not that I really advocate that but sometimes you just get desperate, doesn't make much of an impact. Time Outs do help, because they get him to sit down and cool off. And I'm starting to think that being completely quiet and not engaging him at all helps, too. It's like he has to work his way through the tantrums, and it's better if I just ignore it and turn away. That is, when we're at home. But so far, knock on wood, William doesn't really seem inclined to throw tantrums in public. The few times that he's threatened to, I've just picked him up and left the store or public place.

Luckily for me, my son is starting to understand how to make amends after a full-scale blowout. He says contritely, "I sorry." And sometimes he hugs and kisses, too. Awwww. I guess it's just hard to be a toddler.


Anonymous said...

I like your last idea - engaging and responding as briefly as possible. A little one having a tantrum is not a rational being and anything you do until he calms down may reinforce or prolong the event.
Leaving a public place as quickly as possible is the option of choice when you're out.
Remember the parents' mantras : "I AM THE ADULT" and THIS TOO SHALL PASS."
(And maybe have a little chocolate when everything settles down!)Diane

JenFen said...

I think there is something in the air - toddlers everywhere are stepping up their effort to have their voices heard. Jadyn has been throwing some monster tantrums over the smallest things lately and everyone I have vented to about it has said their little ones are doing the same thing.

I second the notion that the best thing to do is make sure they are not going to hurt themselves and then walk away. When Jadyn follows me wailing and stomping about, I pick her up and set her back in the room she was in - away from me. She seems to get the point, because when she comes out the second time she is usually in sniffling "I'm sorry can we hug it out" mode. This is new to me too because believe it or not, Jake really did not throw tantrums. Not like this anyway!

JenFen said...

PS - Jadyn calms down for Joe immediately when he can intervene for me. I think toddlers feel it necessary to torture their mothers moreso than anyone else.

Anonymous said...

Ditto to Moma Dee!!! "I am the adult" and "this too shall pass." How well I remember some things from the past, and chocolate never hurts! Love, Moma Judi