Getting Fit for a Fit

Throw downs and Calm downs

In the midst of a tender moment between parent and child, a mind-blowing, ear-piercing, body-draining temper tantrum can explode.  It can happen at home when a parent uses such profanity as bedtime, bath time or clean your room. Or it may be set off when siblings find something or nothing to suddenly argue about, where winning the conflict is all- important because of course, the alternative is losing, and nobody wants to lose.  Or, there are times when there is absolutely no visible sign that the child’s inner volcano is about to erupt and emotional lava flows, wiping out everything and every plan in its path. Ah, yes, the joys of parenthood.

Normally, solving a problem requires careful investigation to determine the cause.  Then an appropriate and effective solution can be developed.  Yeah, right.  Tell a mom that when she’s in a store trying to pry a toy out of her son or daughter’s hand and leave without someone calling the police.  It’s a bit nerve-racking to try and deal with a tantruming child in a store while in the back of your mind; you’re hoping you don’t end up on the 6 o’clock news.

Then there are the looks from other shoppers.  The pitying look from a grandmother who’s thinking, ‘too bad you can’t just ‘take care of it’ like we used to’.  The ‘Been there, done that, doing it now’ look from another parent with children arguing and whining for stuff they don’t need.  Of course, don’t forget that indignant look from some upwardly mobile person whose clothes are free from the wrinkles of holding children and the stains of a renegade juice box.  In reality, they have no children or left them at home to terrorize the nanny.

No matter what the cause or where the location, tantrums have to be dealt with. It’s our duty as parents to keep our children from growing up to be tantruming adults.  We’ve all seen those, Scary!

So what’s the secret to diffusing a tantrum?  There is none.  Not one single approach will address the many and varied situations and children that parents face.  But here are some ‘battefield experiences’ that might prove helpful.

  • When leaving a store one day, my then 3-yr old angel turned demonic because there was something he really wanted, and he didn’t like my gentle ‘not today’ answer. He stopped dead in his tracks in the main aisle of the store and refused to budge.  Immediately, the thoughts of the flailing appendages and the attention they would cause crossed my mind as I considered picking him up and hauling him out of the store.  I continued to walk as if I was leaving, but he called my bluff and remained frozen in place.  I slowly walked back to him, bent down and whispered in his ear, “Do you know Daddy’s phone number? You are going to have to tell it to the man at the front of the store so they can call him to come and pick you up.” Then I turned and said a prayer as I started out of the store. Soon I had little hands tugging at my pant leg, but that meant the little man was moving in the direction of the door.  I didn’t look down until we were out the store. Whew!  A little crying in the car and all was well with the world again.  No, I was not the one crying in the car.
  • My oldest, now 21, was a real challenge in school. His 4th grade teacher called to let me know he was refusing to sit down, constantly out of his seat and moving around the room. I casually said, “Oh, maybe he doesn’t need a chair.” There was a stunned silence on the part of the teacher. Then I added,” I’ll definitely address this when he gets home.”  I had 4 barstools at my counter for my boys to sit and do homework. That day, there were only 3.  When my son asked where his chair was, I informed him that his teacher had called and said he didn’t seem to need one at school, so he probably didn’t need one at home, either.  Those 20 minutes of homework hearing him ‘in agony’ over having to stand was completely tolerable.  At suppertime, you guessed it, one less chair. He complained a little then decided to eat quickly.  The next day I received a call from his teacher, recounting the miraculous turnaround in his behavior and how he stayed in his seat without direction.  She curiously inquired about how we addressed it and laughed at the answer.
  • Teen years bring on the verbal explosions for some. I have a 17-yr old that still hasn’t completely found the filter, mute or pause (and think) buttons for his voice.  When in a tirade, he loves to use the words ‘always’ and ‘never’ A LOT.  Such as ‘you always say’ or ‘I never get to’. Well, he used to.  I learned that rather than debating him with arguments to the contrary, I would just make it so.  After all, no parent, as I told him, wants their child to be a liar.  If you say I never let you go with your friends, then that’s how it shall be. You’re right.  Imagine the sting of me agreeing with what he said, that could doom him to life as a hermit! At that point there was a lot of verbal back peddling on his part.  In moments like that, remind your son or daughter that always and never are very big words and should be used carefully.  Don’t forget that goes for parents, too.

Well these tips should help you to always diffuse a potential meltdown.  Well most of the time…maybe sometimes.  Hey, hope something works.

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