If raising children has taught me anything, it’s that trying to stop a tantrum once it’s started is like trying to wrestle a giant octopus who wants to eat your face. The result is the same really. You’re just not going to win and you’re going to lose face in the process.
Think of all those embarrassing tantrums that have exploded around you in the aisles of your local market. Or if you’ve been lucky enough to dodge that bullet, think of all the tantrums you have witnessed around you. But like, take that smug look off your face while you’re doing it OK. I was once like you. My children would never dream of tantruming in public. But not for fear of my wrath or anything (unfortunately, as it seems they are not scared of me at all), but they didn’t do it because they are naturally shy individuals. I guess a double dose of shy genes from both parents will do that to you.
Until one day, one of them explored the unknown and lost the plot in our local Woolies.
Of all the embarrassing things that my children have done to me over the years – including vomiting all over me during our shopping trip at Canal Walk, this was the worst. Probably because it’s just so freaking loud and attention seeking.
But if you’re a Mom of a toddler who tantrums, you’ll know that it’s not as simple as that annoying advice you always get. You know what I’m talking about. “Oh no, my children never tantrum, one tried it once and I just gave him a smack and that was that!” (Tried that. It just made it louder). Or: “I just walked away and then they realised that no one was there and that shut them right up. They never tried it again.” (Seriously? I walked to the other end of the store and nothing changed.)
Also, just to be clear, you get tantrums and then you get TANTRUMS.
Tantrums are when they want something and you say no, so they cry. Maybe they stamp a little, maybe they scream, maybe they lie on the floor and try and beat it into saying yes. They last a couple of minutes and actually could probably be resolved by those gems of advice. We have those incidents all the time, but they don’t get called tantrums in our house, those are arguments. And I always win.
TANTRUMS are totally different and only affect one of our sweet children (thank goodness). These start brewing long before they erupt. Like a volcano. A really small, loud and volatile volcano. In our case it’s usually caused by a change in routine or a couple of days worth of late nights. These include all of the actions of the regular tantrum, but have extras thrown in for good measure. Any sense of being reasonable has not only left the building, it’s gone down to the pub and it’s toasting to the life it used to know. It’s irrational, violent and most notably, it’s persistent. It’s a frenzy that lasts anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. (I wish I was joking). These kinds of tantrums leave you crying yourself to sleep at night. I know this, because I live this.
These TANTRUMS have become such a part of our lives that I can sense the warning signs a couple of hours before it happens. I’ll be reading a book and all of a sudden I’ll bolt up straight, sniff the air and whisper, “It’s starting…”.
But how do I get it to stop? It’s been the question that has been plaguing me for years. And I think I have the solution.
So, she’s not a baby anymore. In fact, she’s almost 6. We should have been over this years ago. But the good news is that we’ve come a long way in our journey along this road. Although she still can’t easily stop once she’s started, she owns it more. She apologises afterwards, we breathe, we cuddle. I’ve realised though, that the trick is to stop them before they start.
“DUH!” I hear you say. And you’d be right. But even though I could smell the smoke in the air hours before the explosion, I just couldn’t stop it from happening. Because, as you may know, these kind of TANTRUMS come right out of the freaking blue. The trigger would not have triggered a rationally thinking person and even though I know that I border on the nuts brigade, I can’t sense them in time.
Which, now that I have it controlled either means that I have brought her over to the rational or I have dipped into the irrational. You’d have to confer with Seth on that one.
Anyway, this is long winded, but I have a point. When I see it starting I literally drop whatever I’m doing and force her to cuddle me. Like a long, deep hug. Then I make her tell me how she is feeling, with examples I give her. “Are you feeling tired or angry? Or sad? Or hurt?” She’ll identify one, I encourage her to cry on my should if she needs to, we chat about it and then we breathe 5 nice big, deep breaths. Guys. It sounds ridiculous, but it has changed my life!
We have been tantrum free for two whole weeks and it’s the holidays. I have successfully diffused THREE before they happened. I’m a couple diffusions away from sending my CV to the bomb squad.
This is obvs our own personal story, it’s not going to work for everyone. BUT if it could help one person, then friends, my job here is done.