Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Throw Off a Tantrum

Before my son arrived in the world, I predicted that he would look just like his daddy and act just like me.

Almost three years in, it's clear that I was right.  He's the spitting image of his daddy, from his eye color to the way he yawns - childhood features and full fledged adult features shining through in his smile, his laugh, and the way he cuts his eyes at me. 

But that boy? Oh, he's mine.

From the way he can talk nonstop from sunup to naptime.

From the way he can spin a story, stop in the middle, remember a story, then go back to the original story.

From his snuggles to his screams.

Screams?

Yep.

You see, I was not exactly a calm child when it came to getting my way. I tried. I really did. I always hated how I felt post-tantrum, but I would inevitably have another one.

And I see those same tantrums in my child.

My parents tried to reason with me. My grandparents and other relatives called me spoiled.  Maybe everyone had a point, but I know that the way my extended family blamed me (as a toddler and beyond) for not knowing how to handle my emotions certainly didn't help (especially given that these were people who screamed at each other so much that we stopped talking to each other at least six times a year).

I'm determined to do something different for my son.

We say that all the time, don't we? I'm going to do this differently. I'm going to be a different parent than mine were. The fact is, my parents did a pretty bang-up job, overall, but I have been through this as the tantrum thrower, and I have some opinions about what worked and what didn't when it came to gently walking me away from the edge of reason.

I see the frustration, the need to release, and I want to help my son.

Here's what I'm going to try.
  • Knowing his triggers - Stayed up to late the night before? Bedtime should be earlier the next night. A tired boy is an angry boy.  And he's too young to know how to express that.
  • Being home - When we've worked late or being gone for other reasons too many nights in a row, he responds with a cranky little attitude.  I need to prioritize my child - I'm the one who decided to have him, not his grandparents or other babysitters.
  • Being firm - Saying no is a freaking lot of work, guys.  I mean, I have to follow-through. I have to handle the whining and the crying that might follow...but hearing no now, while he's still testing the boundaries can only help us later.
  • Loving him through it - I've talked about this before. I need to respect where my son is emotionally and help him work through what he's feeling. I must model what this means by working through my own frustrations when dealing with his.
  • Forgiving - My parents were superstars at this. After a meltdown, they welcomed me back into the land of the calm and didn't remind me 100 times about my silly tantrum.  When my little boy is done crying, I'll happily move onto playing with him (though not with the toy he lost as a result of the tantrum...).
 It won't be flawless.  But it will be designed with his needs in mind (and if those needs happen to look just like my own...well...no one will really be surprised).

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