Wednesday, April 26, 2006

getting philosophical on tantrums

First off, I have one child and he is only 21 months old. I am by no means an expert on tantrums. Hell, my kid doesn’t even have very many of them yet. However, they do happen, as does other undesirable behavior like throwing toys at the dog, screaming at us, and just today, spitting out his lunch on the floor and laughing.

So, I have been thinking about my reactions to Henry’s behavior lately, figuring that if I have a plan I am less likely to do something I wish I hadn’t in the moment. I haven’t had to leave a cart full of groceries behind yet but Jason and I tell each other that we are prepared to do so.

I follow words with actions instead of commanding a behavior to stop from my seat across the room. I will continue to try timeouts even though the kid doesn’t seem to give a shit. I will turn my back on screaming and whining if appropriate. I will comfort and show empathy when appropriate. I will try to prepare Henry for transitions by telling him what is happening next. I will try to distract him with something new when I know he isn’t into whatever I need him to do next. I try to give him something when I take something else away. I will even bribe him on occasion to prevent a meltdown.

I read a comment on BMC’s blog this morning in response to previous comments about dealing with toddler tantrums and I found that it really pissed me off. They guy suggested that making fun of your kid while they freak out works and that leaving the kid alone also works. He gives the example of pretending you are leaving the child alone in a grocery story and peeking around the end of the aisle. I had to step back for a minute and ask myself why I was bothered and the answer came quickly.

For one, I fucking hate being made fun of and I don’t want to do it to my kid. I have accidentally laughed while Henry had a fit because it really is kind of funny sometimes. And he stopped and gave me this look that was a combination of surprise, frustration, annoyance and a little amusement he was trying to hold back. While it did make him stop crying, I didn’t like it. I know that expression and the feeling that goes with it very well and I hate it. I have known it and hated it since I was about 3 years old. I was a sensitive kid around a bunch of sarcastic adults who cut me no slack and it still pisses me off to think about it. Don’t get me wrong. I can laugh at myself and am a sarcastic pain in the ass. If I screw up or do something goofy, bring it on. I can take it. But if you make fun of me when I really care about the issue, I don’t do very well. I feel like a defensive kid again and I really don’t want to pass that on. Maybe I will have the desire to bitch about the pretending to leave the kid alone approach later or maybe not but I don’t like that one either.

Kids are all so different and I know we can only do what works for our individual situation and cut other people some slack. But I also know that just because something “works” doesn’t mean it’s okay. I have learned that I have/had a lot of parenting ideas before I was a parent and some of them have held but many haven’t. I do know that I won’t hit my child and I am going to do my damnedest to make sure he feels supported and not ridiculed/made fun of, unless of course, he does something really stupid.



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