When it comes to tantrums, we quickly focus on the child, but what about us, the parents? What state of mind do we need to be in, in order to remedy the situation? Do we get angry, embarrassed, sympathetic, frustrated? I recently discovered that humor was just what I needed to get me through my four-year old’s recent tantrum.
(Image is Public Domain)
Okay moms, don’t hate me for saying this, but my kids are six, four and seven months old, and I just had my first encounter with a full-out, throw yourself on the floor, temper tantrum. Believe me, my children are not perfect. They can be cranky, whiny, misbehave and drive me nuts at times, but the idea of a temper tantrum has been quite foreign to them, thank my lucky stars. In fact, whenever we have witnessed a true tantrum in public, my kids look at me in confusion and ask, “Mommy, what is that child doing?”. I am very aware that I have been extremely fortunate!
My oldest is a rule follower and gets very upset when Mommy and Daddy are angry at him. He has always been, and still is, an angel, and I have learned that his kind is rare. My middle child is definitely a bit more, shall we say, expressive. He idolizes his big brother and since they are so close in age, has always played with his friends. I have recently been trying to have my middle child find his own friends, especially since his brother moved onto Kindergarten in a new school. I have seen my four-year old flourish and finally tell me he likes school. The other day he was asked for a playdate which was so exciting, since he usually tags along to his brother’s playdates. Needless to say, my oldest was not happy because he wanted to stay too. The mother offered for him to play as well, but I decided that my middle son deserved to have a friend all to himself. My oldest sulked but got over it quickly, especially when he found out we were headed to the ice cream store.
A few days later, after baseball practice, my older son was invited to play at a teammates house. I knew if my middle one found out he wasn’t invited, he would freak out. I was right, as my older son accepted the invitation. In the middle of the dirt parking lot, my four-year old dropped to the floor, started throwing sand and dirt, punching my car and hitting whatever he could, all while basically hyperventilating. The father of the friend who had invited my older son to play was witnessing this then offered to have my four-year old over too. Even though this would have been a quick remedy, I knew it would be giving in, not to mention my older son deserved his own playdates too!
My husband and I looked at each other, as if an alien had invaded our son, since we had never experienced this behavior from him before. We actually started laughing because we didn’t know what else to do. We tried to hide it and turn our heads since we didn’t want our son to think we were laughing at him. I figured instead of losing patience and getting angry at my son, I would start with humor. As parents and children were getting into and out of their cars at the baseball fiend, we were of course the spectacle of the day. I started asking them whose child this was and if they could please notify the mother. Everyone then started laughing, except of course my son, which created a positive atmosphere in a not so positive situation.
Not knowing what to do next, and thinking he was continuing the funny streak, my husband conveniently left in his own car and headed to do some errands. I was left with a hot, sweaty, muddy and inconsolable child. I knew I could get both my son and myself through this and because I was in the right state of mind, was able to understand what my son needed and sympathize with him. I got down to his level and started with logic, which tends to work so well with kids (NOT). Even so, I did want to let him know why this was all happening. I explained that last week, he had his own playdate and today, it was his brother’s turn. While he didn’t want to hear it, he knew I had a point. I scooped him up, told him I thought he needed a giant hug, wiped off his tears, and instructed him to take a deep breath. I continued on that I hated seeing him so sad and upset and that we would have our own fun time while his brother was at his friend’s house. My son then let me scoop him up and put him in his car seat. He was still panting and catching his breath but I had reached my first goal of removing him from the ground and getting us on our way home.
While driving home, I just smiled at him and showed him I was not angry but so happy he was going to be spending time with me. My calmness and positive tone helped him to start to change his mood and outlook as well. Even though I was not mad at him, I still wanted to let him know that his reaction and behavior was not necessary and not the best way to communicate his feelings. He agreed and I once more explained how important it was for his brother and he to have their own playdates. Once we arrived home and pulled into the garage, I let him sit in my lap, honk the horn and help me take the keys out of the ignition, which he LOVES to do. After cleaning him up and getting him a delicious snack of his choice, we ended up playing outside for the rest of the day and laughing the whole time. He even remarked that it was his best day ever!
I have learned that patience goes a long way. Every child is of course different but with mine, lots of love, hugs and communication helps get him back on track when he is upset and quickly spiraling downward. You know your child better than anyone and understand what he needs at a difficult time and that will allow you to be prepared and build your own behavior modification plan when a tantrum rears its ugly head. The fact that I turned to humor, kept me calm, collected and smiling, and helped to quickly rectify the situation. I will let you know that since this story occurred at the baseball field, I have been lucky enough to re-acquaint myself with Mr. Tantrum at least three more times. I guess I was lucky to escape the terrible twos but have seem to have run into the frightful fours!