A Li’l Rant About Tantrums

E is a pretty cool kid. He is also quite challenging at the moment.

So far, we have not had any negative reports from his teachers in terms of his behaviour. Aside from that time in the fall when he didn’t want to participate in gym (it was understandably overwhelming, with 30 kids bouncing and echoing around), he seems to be adjusting well to school. We’ve been assured that he’s not a whiny kid at school, and he plays well with others.

I think sometimes it’s hard for him to be around so many kids at once, for such a long time, every weekday. Both his parents walk the line between introversion and extroversion – needing social time but also alone time, enjoying friends but not being overly fond of crowds or mingling.

I’m wondering if this is why he often… loses his cool, shall we say, when he’s at home. Perhaps he just reaches his limit. I know I do sometimes.

Honestly, he freaks out over very small things. Like his sock is crooked, or a Cheerio falls on the floor, or (this is a classic for him) the cheese doesn’t want to stay in his sandwich. And any injury, no matter how small, is cause for screaming.

He’s been like this since before school started; but his reactions are becoming more annoying and entrenched. Typical responses to minor problems these days include:

  • horrible shrieking
  • clamping hands over ears (especially if one of us speaks sternly to him)
  • delivering a hefty poke or tiny-fisted punch to whatever part of whatever parent is nearest
  • using a super-attitude-y nasty voice (“But, MUMMY, that’s NOT what I MEANT!”)
  • saying, with the drama of a teenager, “I hate you!!” (Lately, he’s taken to adding “right now” to this, because he knows we will call him on it later.)

He knows that none of these things get him what he wants. He knows that we don’t approve of any of them (except maybe the first, but only if it’s warranted, i.e. once out of 1.27 jillion times).

I wish I could say we had consistent ways of dealing with the behaviours, but we don’t. Sometimes we hold forth with angelic patience. Sometimes we try to reason things out (ha). Sometimes we snap at him. Sometimes we scoop him up and stick him in his room (I do this when my ears are full – which they often are after a teaching day). Sometimes we use a really scary voice. Sometimes we use a hug.

Most of the time, I feel pretty certain that it’s just a phase and totally normal. Once in a while, I wonder if something is really wrong with him – if his anxiety is actually much higher than it should be. Or if we did something to cause this. And I always wonder what is the parental reaction that we should be striving for – the one that would defuse the situation before it gets all intense. The one that would work.

Baby AB is also pretty dramatic, but at least she usually takes E’s episodes in stride. She’ll hear him freaking out, and gesture one hand in his direction and say, “Cry… cry.” All in a day’s work.

I would love to hear your insight on this one: if you have (or have had) kids who melt down, have you found a technique works for you/them to de-escalate matters? Do you use tough love or sympathy or both? What have you learned about tantrums? Thank you for your wisdom…

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