30 March 2008

Terrific My A$$

Some people like replacing the "terrible" in the terrible twos with "terrific." These people have the idea that this "wonderful" developmental milestone is one that should not be immediately pigeon-holed as a negative period in parenthood. It should be embraced, reveled in even.

I had that mindset for about a week and a half.

Maybe not even that long.

The problem is that as wonderful as my dear, sweet Little Man is most of the time, there are moments--increasingly more frequent moments--during which some sort of anguish-ridden demon enters his body. This inevitably results in a tantrum, or a series of tantrums. For example, just in the last week, two of my favorites:

Exhibit 1: Little Man threw himself, face-down, onto the floor in the middle of the airport. It turns out, apparently, that when I hung up the pay phone and took it away from him, I somehow cut off his very happiness. His little body went limp, then stiff, then he fell to the floor. I, with stroller, multiple bags, all of our coats, and the parking information on hand stood there dumbfounded. The ladies working at the car rental booth chuckled, "I've never seen anything like that." As though I had. No, sir. This was a completely new experience for me. How lucky that I got to experience it with such a very, very large audience.

Exhibit 2: Just today, on the way home from the store, Little Man had a complete meltdown in the parking lot, when he decided that he wanted me and not his Papa to put him into the car. He refused, however, to ask nicely or to say please. Papa put him into the car, and we were treated to a symphonic melange of screams and whines for most of the drive home. Just as they subsided for a moment, we stopped to pick up some food. When he saw the drink that he couldn't have, we were treated to an encore. Or so we thought. It turns out that there was a second act. The child continued to scream and cry and kick and throw himself about for the next 20 minutes or so--it was a lovely, lovely lunch.

Here's the problem: he's not even two yet. I don't know how much more of this I can handle. Because the way I was brought up, this kind of behavior would get you a whack on the backside, and as I've written before, I'm not willing to do that to my child. I also don't believe it will work--I believe the science that says he's not in control of most of these "little" outbursts.

But somehow, I need to make it through the next, oh I dunno, year or so. So tell me-- how do I deal with tantrums without losing my cool? How can I help him learn to control himself? (And all those lurkers out there--I'm talking to you, too.) If you've never commented before, people, here is your big chance... I'm begging you.


Rayne of Terror said...

The first thing is for you to stay calm. If you get upset he may feed off your energy. I used a variety of tactics depending on the circumstances. At just under two we were still nursing, so I'd say, I see you are frustrated/upset, would you like to nurse? A lot of the time that worked instantly. After he weaned everything changed. If we were in public we just left. Sometimes I'd wrap him in a bear hug. At home I could either walk away and ignore the tantrum or sometimes throw myself on the ground and say, you think that's a fit? I'll show you a fit. And I'd flail about. He usually got a big hearty laugh out of that. My son's tantrums highly correlate to being hungry or not having enough protein, and tired. If I could fix those things he was lible to cheer right up. Plus a regular schedule, regular outside time, and telling him what was coming next. First thing in the morning I'd give him a run down of the days activities (because they're old enough to understand even if they can't talk about it) and keep up a running commentary the rest of the day about what we did and what we're going to do.


Anonymous said...

the brain from pinky and thew brain inveted something that would come in handy wright now it was a pair of fake teeth that gave you a smile so irrisitble that any human would do what ever you wanted, that is my recomedation DS

Catch Her In the Wry said...

I too always kept my children informed as to what was happening throughout the day. Also, I offered them choices (usually two) and allowed them to make their own decisions. That way, they felt that they had some control over their lives and at the same time learned about decision making & consequences of decisions.

Even though the choices offered were really parental decisions, the children felt less controlled. We had no tantrums by doing this.

Amanda said...

I'd offer advice, but honestly those years are a very hazy blur to me. I'm not entirely sure how I lived through them, more accurately I'm not sure how my son lived through them.

I will suggest consistancy and try the book "How to Behave so your Toddler will to".

Best Wishes - Amanda

Jennie said...

Oh, I hear you. Before my son turned 1.5 I was planning to have a second child. Now he's 3.5 and still an only child. I think 1.5-2.5 was the worst part, and it felt worse than it really was because he was sooooo easy from birth to 1.5...we were totally unprepared. For us, I think he was frustrated by his lack of communication skills. I really found there isn't much you can do once they're in the midst of a tantrum--the only thing you can do is try to avoid (well, reduce the number of) tantrums in the first place. So my advice is, to begin, get your sleep (both of you), because everything is that much more terrible when you're tired. Second, as CHITW said, offer choices. We did this for everything--Do you want the blue cup or the orange cup?; Do you want to wear this shirt of that one?; Do you want to brush your teeth first or comb your hair first?--it really reduced our son's frustration about not having the words to express everything he wanted to communicate. Making choices allowed him to feel he was communicating (even if both options were technically my choices). Just don't make the mistake of giving him open-ended choices [there's a huge difference between 'what do you want for lunch?' and 'would you like pasta or chicken for lunch?']. Third, as has also been mentioned already, map out the day for him and keep him updated as you go. We're leaving in two more minutes; after lunch it will be nap time; etc. so he has some time to process whatever is to come. Try not to be too hard on yourself (or your son) because the terrible twos are infamous for a reason--they're not a reflection of something you did or didn't do as a parent, and they don't indicate that your child will grow up to be a terrible human being that nobody ever wants to be around. This too shall pass.

FabulousGirlyGirl said...

He is testing you. He wants to be in control. So here's the thing. First, you need to remain as calm as possible. For me, I chose a "happy song" that i would sing in my head. It takes a while to "program" yourself to do this, but it really works. It is hard to be angry when you are singing.

Second, you should try to calm him. A sot voice and a warm understanding hug (even though you don't feel like it). If he feels understood, that will help.

Third, present him with a control option giving him control but the outcome that you desire. Exp: Do you want to leave in three minutes? or in five minutes?"

Fourth: CONSISTENCY. You can NEVER LOSE. It's kind of like a slot machine. If it pays off once, you are more likely to keep playing. If it never pays off you will never go back.

If you make a threat. Stick to it.

Just remember that this is a very short time that you will have to deal with this. The more consistent you are, the faster he will learn.

Good Luck.

Pie said...

Wow, there was a lot of good advice in these comments. We're just about to adopt a two-year-old (we're leaving to get him in 2 weeks- yikes!), so we're heading straight for tantrum country.

I have no advice, I just wanted to thank your commenters - particularly the book suggestion: How to Behave So Your Preschooler Will, Too. I'm definitely buying that!