“A tantrum or temper tantrum is an emotional outbreak, usually associated with children or those in emotional distress, typically characterized by stubbornness, crying, screaming, defiance, angry ranting, a resistance to attempts at pacification and, in some cases, hitting. Physical control may be lost; the person may be unable to remain still; and even if the “goal” of the person is met, he or she may not be calmed. A tantrum may be expressed in a tirade: a protracted, angry, or violent speech.”—Wikipedia
I have to admit, I chucked as I read Wikipedia’s definition of a temper tantrum because it’s so spot on. My favorite part is “even if the goal of the person is met, he or she may not be calmed.” This pretty sums up the inexplicable, incomprehensible, mind-bending and exasperating part of dealing with a child who is having a fit. Whether I am in the middle of a public place or in the privacy of our home, it seems I am often trying to prevent tantrums, stop tantrums that could not be prevented or dealing with the aftermath and the self-doubt that occurs after it’s over. If I give in to the tantrum, I feel like I am enabling bratty, spoiled behavior and that my child is doomed to grow into Veruca Salt. Or worse, if lose my own temper, but I don’t give in, have I scarred my child with my own anger and been a walking talking contradiction: Do as I say, not as I do. The perfectly calm voice of authority, who doesn’t express emotion in response to his or her child’s ridiculous raging is often a lofty goal for a tired and busy parent. Sometimes, the best way to perceive a child’s tantrum even the most trying, stressful, grey-hair and bags-under-your eyes producing behavior, is through the lens of humor. Because for the most part, the reasons for most tantrums are pretty funny, even if dealing with them in the moment isn’t.
Lauren, age 3, had an absolute conniption fit because her Polly Pocket’s hair was “too radiant!” And she kept screaming about how this radiant hair was NOT OK. My mother and I tried not to laugh while we simultaneously marveled at her advanced vocabulary. She was mad because the dolls hair would not lay flat and was sticking up (yes, like rays of randiant sunshine) around her head. After that, I only bought Polly Pockets with plastic helmet hair.
Kate would lose her mind if Lauren got the purple bowl when SHE wanted the purple bowl for her cereal. So we’d switch bowls and suddenly, the PINK bowl seemed much more appealing and Kate would be losing her mind because she should have that bowl and Lauren shouldn’t. This is a perfect example of the “goal being achieved” (i.e. getting the bowl you want) not ending the tantrum. Any logical human being, with properly firing synapses, would be baffled by this completely irrational display and might try using reason, “But you GOT the purple bowl. You wanted the purple bowl. Here have it.” This same person would be amazed when the previously coveted purple bowl was thrown on the floor, even if it was full of ice cream. This is when you know the problem isn’t the color of the bowl. The problem is an over-tired, over-stimulated or overly-hungry child who is just plain cranky and just needs an excuse to have a melt down because that’s how they tell us all is not right in their world, even if they don’t know why.
I can’t even remember what set Cooper off yesterday, I can only remember him yelling and pointing at his sister, saying “But Lauren is standing on the FLOOR!” He was obviously very, very ticked off about something and he needed to vent so he stood there furious and raging about how she should NOT BE “standing on the floor!” Lauren just stood there looking confused and I made a funny face at her like “Aren’t little kids just silly sometimes?” And then later I made sure to tell her all of the things that she used to get very upset about, like dolls having radiant hair or her stubborn insistence on wearing a certain shirt even if it was in the dirty laundry basket and covered in mud stains.
What is the funniest or most ridiculous thing over which your child has had a meltdown?