Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Completely Irrational Art of Throwing a Tantrum

My oldest is the sweetest little girl you'll ever meet.


 She is adorable and kind and gentle and helpful and so many other wonderful things but if she is in a less than desirable mood and something does not go her way, she bears a striking resemblance to the hulk. As I've been trying to deal as constructively and positively as possible with the crazy emotions of my 4 year old, I've learned a lot. I've become a student, taking notes about each stage and truly learning the completely irrational art of throwing a tantrum. I thought I'd share my findings with you.

Stage 1: The child realizes that something is not going their way. Their face starts to scrunch up and the bottom lip begins to protrude more than anyone thought humanly possible and the screaming starts. It's not so high pitched at first but as it escalates it reaches a decibel that only dogs can hear and apparently my cat because she runs as far from the action as possible with her ears turned back and pained expression on her face.
Thoughts of the child at Stage 1: "I'm upset! I will be as noisy as possible to show that I am upset!"
Thoughts of the parent at Stage 1: "Oh no."

This is a picture of my son whose tantrums are still very underdeveloped compared to my daughter but you get the picture.

Stage 2: The tears begin to flow (as well as the snot) and the child sees that their parent has, in fact, noticed that they are upset. They continue to scream and cry and start to throw themselves around with no consideration for their own personal safety or the well being of those around them. They will often get hurt during this stage of the tantrum (a rogue hand hits a wall, their head collides with something hard as they throw themselves blindly on the floor, that sort of thing...) this only escalates the tantrum and they look at you like you were the one who hurt them when really they did it completely on their own.
Thoughts of the child at stage 2: "What did I do to deserve this!"
Thoughts of the parent at stage 2: "What did I do to deserve this?"

Stage 3: By stage 3 you as the parent have probably started to take some sort of action. If you are a very skilled manipulator and the tantrum was only a 1 or 2 on the richter scale you may have managed to quiet the child and are now trying to reason with them. Good for you! This never happens to me. At this point I am trying to convince my child that having a time out will help her calm down. I somehow manage to get her into her room and often have to hold the handle to keep out of harms way. She continues to scream and cry and is trying her best to pound down the door. 
Thoughts of the child at stage 3: "If I can just keep this up for a little longer I will surely get what I want!"
Thoughts of the parent at stage 3: "Maybe I should just give in. Then this child will stop screaming."

Stage 4: It didn't seem possible but the child has now reached a new level of upset. They are completely soaked with snot and tears and can hardly catch their breath between sobs and screams. They sound like they are dying. You try whatever you can to calm them down. My list goes something like this: 
1) Ask the child in calm and soothing voice to stop crying.
2) Ask the child if what they really need is a hug.
3) Assure the child that it does not matter how long or loud they scream that the answer is still no.
4) Give the child a few helpful ideas to aid in the calming down process (count to 10, stomp foot 3 times, hug a stuffy, take 3 deep breaths)
5) Tell the child if they do not calm down that a prized possession will be taken away. 
6) Speak a little more sternly, you may have to raise your voice  a little to be heard over all the screaming.
7) Even though they answered, "No" to #2 you courageously go in for the hug anyway despite the flaying limbs and snot soaked shirt and hair. 
8) You begin to google parenting tips on your iPhone and hope you'll find something you have not already tried.
Stage 4 seems to last an eternity.
Thoughts of the child at stage 4: "I'm so upset but I can't remember why!"
Thoughts of the parents at stage 4: "What started this again?"

Stage 5: At some point the child will calm down. You will talk to them about their behaviour and they will apologize regretfully or unwillingly but at this stage you don't really care. No one feels good about how things went down. There is no winner and everyone is a loser. You plan for better behaviour in the future and if you are having an especially good parenting day you will make some sort of chart or reward system to help see the plan through. 
Thoughts of the child at stage 5: "What should I play with next?"
Thoughts of the parent at stage 5: "Thank goodness that is over!"

In all my research I have yet to come up with a sure fire solution to the problem of the tantrum. One thing I know for sure is that it's a good thing kids are so cute because tantrums are the worst. They are loud and annoying and bring out the worst in everyone involved. I'm told that there is hope for all of us who suffer from a tantrum throwing child because apparently they grow out of it and soon reach another stage called teenager, where they are completely rational and just complete angels!

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