Sitting at my laptop, trying to think of what to write. The boys are playing in the kitchen with the blocks. I’m taking advantage of the lull caused by their busy-ness. What to write, what to write?
The boys thunder by from the kitchen door on my left to the living room on my right, “Let’s go to the aparta-ment!” “Yeah! Let’s go.” They vanish through the living room door. The dust settles. The pictures sit slightly skewed on the wall. I continue my musing.
The boys thunder by from right to left, “Let’s built an aparta-ment!” “Yeah! Let’s build one!” “With balconies!” They disappear into the kitchen. A plastic block falls off the end table, twirls, stops. The monitor on my laptop stops trembling. I resume pondering, scribble on the pad at my left.
The boys thunder by from left to right. “We need some books for the aparta-ment!” “Yeah, and a pillow!” I grab my water bottle before it vibrates right off the table, tap my fingers along it gently as I look vaguely upward, seeking inspiration in the middle distance.
The boys thunder by from right to left. “You can be the fireman!” “Yeah! And you can be the policeman!” “And I will be the garbageman!” The cat yowls as he’s trampled underfoot, then stalks away upstairs, twitching with injured dignity. There’s an idea in my mind, if I could only catch it.
The boys thunder by from left to right. “We need the tools to fix it!” “Yeah! Let’s get the tools!” “And some more books!” The violin on the bench beside me hums softly. A bib slip gently off the high chair tray and rustles onto the floor. The idea is there, it’s coming, it’s coming…
The boys thunder by from right to left. “Maybe the elephant can do it!” “Yeah. Or a giraffe.” “My gramma has giraffes on her coffee table!”
A pencil rolls off the table, rattles on the floor. I pick it up and the idea slips away. I dunno. I just can’t seem to get focussed today. Can’t imagine why.
George strolls around the living room wearing a fireman’s hat, a white lacey hand-knitted baby blanket draped around himself.
“Darcy! Darcy, you want to see my wedding dress? See: it’s white!” George is being a beautiful bride, and very pleased with himself he is.
“Yeah, George, it’s nice.”
“You want to have a wedding, Darcy?”
Darcy greets this with enthusiasm. “Okay!” He crosses the living room.
“You can be the man,” George directs him, “and I’ll be the lady.”
“I’m not a man!” Darcy is quite firm on this. Well, we have one child already with some gender confusion. Why not two? George, however, isn’t ready to give up the fantasy quite so easily.
“Yes, you can be the man. You can wear my hat.” It’s close to a bribe: the bright red fireman’s hat in question has been in George’s exclusive possession for close to an hour now.
Darcy is unyielding. “No, I’m not a man. I can’t be a man, I’m not finished yet.”
“You’re not finished yet?”
“Yeah. I’m not growed up yet.” Ah. No gender confusion for this lad, then.
George tries another tactic. Born to be a negotiator, this boy. “Well, would you like to be another lady, then? You can wear the other dress!” And, after all, this is now legal in Ontario, though I am beginning to reel with the gender-bending going on: two males getting married as two females. Darcy, however, while not a negotiator, sure can hold a position.
“No. I will be a man another day, when I’m big.”
George has shot his last arrow. “Okay. Let’s play trains.”
And off they go to be engineers, the not-finished man, and the would-be bride, the latter still wearing his wedding dress and fireman’s hat.
Fastidious George has a cold. Well, he has a drippy nose. Not much of a drip. At all. No great slimey green and yellow strands reaching to chin and beyond – oh, stop that squeamish wincing, you’re all parents, you’ve seen worse, you know you have. Nope. Nothing like that. George has a teeny tiny little barely runny nose. Sometimes you can just barely see a bit of dampness glistening there. If you look very carefully. In a good light.
George sees it differently. Dozens of times an hour, I hear his little voice:
“Mary, I need a kleenex.”
He takes the proffered tissue, and dabs, oh so delicately, at his upper lip. Then screws the infinitesimally damp thing into a tiny ball and tosses it out. Given the option, George would repeat this manoeuvre at eighteen-second intervals, elminating all tissue from my house within the hour. This is why the kleenex boxes are all out of the childrens’ reach.
Well, clearly something has to be done.
“Mary, I need a kleenex.”
I hand it, he dabs, he begins to wad it up. I cringe.
“George, stop. You don’t need to throw that out yet. You can use it at least once more.” See how gentle I’m being with the boy? By my standards, that thing is pristine, completely untouched by snot. He could use the same damn one all day long, at this rate of soilage.
His eyes widen. “I can’t use it again!! It’s all snotty!!”
I snort, but I’m still being kind. He is, after all, showing laudable concern with hygiene. This boy could grow up to be the kind of man who sees mess and picks up after himself! Do I want to spoil this for the future Mrs. George? I think not.
Still, I can’t have him going through a box an hour.
“All right, but don’t crumple it up. Give it to me, I’ll get rid of it.” I take the old one, I hand him a new one. Prepare yourself for just how devious Mary can be…
Twenty-six seconds later, when he requests his next tissue, I take the “used” one he proffers, and I hand him the previous one.
We’ve been alternating two tissues all morning, and neither of them is used up yet.
A brilliant, a simply brilliant win-win solution, and the future Mrs. George gets to have her tidy man. Lord, I’m good.
I just popped into my Technorati page, to see if I have anybody new linking to me. Found nothing of excitement in the links section. Dooce and Instapundit remain resolutely uninterested in my daily hilarity, and even Blogging Baby and DotMoms haven’t yet checked out my words of wisdom.
But all is not lost. There is an item of note on the page. Glance to the left, and look at my list of “sponsored links”!! Well, well, well…
Genital Warts Treatment
Living with Herpes?
Genital Warts / HPV
Get Rid of Genital Warts
That gives one pause. How on earth does a nice, family-friendly site like mine, a site which, in six months, has used the F-word only once – Once! and I was quoting - get sponsored by all those juicy sites? Sites with such a very specific focus. Heck, they’re not even funny! No naughty fun on my sponsored links, no indeed, just unmentionably physical ickiness. Probably complete with pictures. Not that I went looking.
My persona is Mary Poppins, for goodness’ sake! How the original Mary P would have recoiled. I can hear her disapproving sniff from here. Oh, but wait. She’s not sniffing at technorati’s vulgarity. Her snort – a small and ladylike, but very telling snort – is directed at me. For it was I who raised the indelicate subject of bodily imperfections. It was I who first used the W-word. Yes, it’s true. I am my own culprit.
Didn’t I proclaim myself – over there to the left in the “About Me” bit, you can see it – to be in the business of wart removal? Oh my. How very foolish. For in the world of seach engines, warts can only be physical, after all, not metaphorical, and of only one particularly nasty physical type.
There goes Mary P the 1st, snorting at me once again – only this time she’s laughing.
This is the shelf in my cupboard that houses the daycare stuff. I like its bright, cheerful colours. I like that I can look at this and almost pretend that I’m organized. Almost.
Their stuff is colour coded, too. See those bowls on the left? They’re those wee Ikea bowls, each holding 3/4 cup comfortably, but no more. Good for little ones. The pale green on on the bottom is George’s; then we have orange for Harry, blue for Darcy, yellow for sunny Katie, red for Alice, and deep green for Zach. Then the sippy cups for the under-twos, and the juice boxes for the threes, when we’re out and about. The plastic regular cups on the next shelf over are for those old enough not to spill when we’re home.
I found these yesterday. Aren’t they great? Jumbo crayons. Do they still give jumbo pencils and crayons to the smallest children? It brought back a memory of Miss Lockwood’s grade one class in my little village school, and so I had to buy a couple of packs, for nostalgia if nothing else!
It’s a grader. Is this a sign we’re nearing the end? This is one time I’m grateful for the onset of winter: they’ll have to be done by then!
Well. Four-year-old Hunter’s first day, and I got to put my money where my mouth was in the tantrum department. He was not at all pleased when mom left, and let us all know it. A yelling, screaming, and I do mean toenails-being-plucked-out screaming, flailing, spitting, kicking, head-banging tantrum. Phew. However, I prevailed, and within five minutes of his mother’s departure, he was playing trains in the kitchen with the other children. His shoulders still shuddered bytimes with post-sob residue, but calm.
It was exciting! It was fascinating. Is it too weird of me to admit that I got a whole lot of satisfaction out of taming this tantrum? Stuff like this is a true professional challenge for someone in my line of work. It’s like a puzzle, in which you must balance principles against practicalities, the needs of the various parties to the drama, and come up with the course of action that will attain your goal: happy children playing co-operatively together.
And I did it. He did it. We did it. Yay for us! Wonder what next Monday will be like???
This post has been surprisingly difficult to write, and it’s taken me the better part of three weeks to work out just why. Okay, I confess: I have little experience with tantrums.
Shocked you, haven’t I? The woman works almost exclusively with toddlers, and yet claims to have little experience with the landmark event of toddlerhood. How can this be? Primarily, I believe, this is because after years of experience with tykes this age, I am extremely well-attuned to the indications that we are entering potential tantrum zone, and take evasive action before we reach full-blown tantrum stage. Additionally, it is because in the power struggles that are inevitable with a very young child, I have repeatedly established my spot in the pecking order, and we haved reached an understanding about the mutual expression of respect.
Tantrums are effectively evaded a dozen times a day. By “evaded”, I do not mean appeasing, coaxing, bribing or wheedling a recalcitrant child into compliance. I mean dealing with the situation in such a way as to resolve it effectively, without screaming and aggression. (Your cries of frustration and hair-pulling included.) I realize that I should be writing about these episodes, give you an insider’s view, an annotated case study, as Mim has done so well a couple of times recently. (Although it isn’t titled as such, this post, for example, is a superb example of tantrum evasion.)
In part one of this series, I mused on some of the parental attitudes and principles that increase the likelihood that a child will experience tantrums. In part two, I outlined parental attitudes and principles that will reduce the likelihood of tantrums. And now I’m supposed to get “how-to”, and I was having a terrible time knowing where to start. I have already written about responding to physical aggression , and about the necessity of expecting respect from your child. In the end, I have decided to focus in this post on a single aspect of tantrums, which probably causes more parental stress and humiliation than any other: screaming. And again, Mim has an extremely well-written post describing a masterful example of scream evasion.
She discusses two types of screaming, the justified indignation at being disrespectfully man-handled, and the “fuck you” scream. The latter is my focus.
So here you are, presented with a child who is screaming in sheer raging defiance. You have told them, “No screaming” to no avail. They are mad as hell, and they intend you to suffer for it. What do you do? With very young, pre-verbal, children, you physically remove them from the site, put them some place quiet and safe, and give them time to calm down, alone. It is not punishment to leave them alone: it is respect. “I trust you to calm yourself.” It is also self-respect: “I will not be screamed at.”
During the process of removal to quiet place, you take on the role of “benign robot”. You do not respond with visible anger, feeding their emotional turmoil, nor do you soothe and reassure, rewarding the behaviour. Instead, you are as expressionless as possible. Your words, uttered in a firm and factual tone, are as simple as possible: “No screaming.”
This is doubly difficult if the tantrum is occurring in public. However, be assured that of the other grocery shoppers, many have had their moment in the sun and truly are viewing you with compassion. Of the judgmental ones, well: a) who cares?; and b) they’ll be very happy to see you leave asap. It’s probably the one thing you can do to earn their approval, assuming you need it. So yes, leave that grocery cart 3/4 full if need be, and take your child someplace calm and quiet. Better to resolve this now so you can shop in peace hereafter, than become a prisoner in your own home, afraid to go anywhere through fear of such outbursts.
If the child is verbally competent, in addition to the physical removal, you can use more words. Be aware, however, that too much talk is reinforcing. If you spend long minutes explaining, you are rewarding the behaviour, even if you are obviously angry or upset. Attention is attention, and we are all attention pigs. Just human nature.
However, a firm, “You may be angry, but you may not scream,” is entirely appropriate. Say it once, calmly, slowly and very firmly. Pause for a moment to give the child time to soak your words in and suck it up. Repeat, in just the same manner and tone, perhaps saying the child’s name first. If after two repeats they are still screaming, remove to quiet safe place and walk away. You may choose to add, with the same pause-and-repeat pattern, “When you are quiet, we will talk.”
And then walk away and give them time and space to calm down. This may be the single most difficult thing for most caring parents to do. This perspective will encourage, I hope: It is not your job to calm your child, it is your child’s. No one can control another’s emotions. Your job is to teach your child the appropriate expression of his/her emotions. By walking away, you give your child the opportunity to learn.
When they are quiet, a quick hug and brief praise suffices. There is no need to launch into a “there, you see?”, which is essentially just an “I told you so”, and would annoy any self-respecting human being. Instead, a warm “Feel better now? Good for you. I knew you could do it!” is much more constructive. You have made your point, they have learned a lesson. They are reassured of your continued love and affection, and you can move on to the next thing.
If screaming jags are responded to in this way consistently, they can be eradicated from the child’s behavioural vocabulary in just a few episodes. Bring on that happy day!