Friday, 21 September 2012

Tantrum time

Before becoming a parent, I always heard about the “Terrible Twos”… you know, that dreaded milestone in every child’s life when they start asserting themselves, testing their boundaries, having tantrums and saying no to everything. Here’s something no one tells you: this phase is not necessarily something that starts at age two. Instead it should be called “Terrible Toddlerhood”.

My son, now 19 months old, is definitely starting up in this phase. Thing is, he’s always been a tester of boundaries and he’s had a little temper on him since, well, birth. When he gets mad, it’s hard not to laugh. He clenches his firsts and yells in a manner very similar to the Incredible Hulk. Instead of turning green, he goes beet red. Then if he’s really pissed off, he’ll bang his head against the wall or the floor, or whichever is the closest surface to him. I don’t love the head banging part, but he usually stops that pretty quickly when he realizes that it hurts.

Recently, he began shaking his head to say “no.” Any question asked of him would be met with a firm shake of the head. I’m never entirely sure if he really wants to say no, or he just likes shaking his head in response to a question because he usually has a big smile on his face when he does it. Sometimes he’ll give me the shake, then stop and nod. As in “Do you want some yogurt?” Shake of the head, pause, well – okay, I’ll have some yogurt.

Then last week he began to say the dreaded word “no.” I don’t remember if it was in response to anything in particular, or if he just came out with it, but he said “Mama, no no!” to me and my heart dropped. Now I know that the Terrible “Twos” have begun.

Fortunately the arrival of this new vocabulary word coincided with a regular check-up at his paediatrician’s office. Without me even asking, she had a pretty nice talk with me about how to handle the tantrums. She reminded me that the best thing to do is to pick my battles and if they’re not related to something serious, ignore the tantrums until he calms down. Her advice was that if I respond to the tantrums and show my frustration or give in to unreasonable demands, he will only learn to use the tantrums to get his way. If I don’t respond, he will give up more quickly and move on to something else. I thought it was pretty good advice and I’m trying my hardest to follow it. Bad behaviour, on the other hand, is something to be dealt with and she offered up some advice on that as well. But I think we’ll tackle that in another post because there’s plenty to be said on that subject!

Since that time, it’s been a non-stop chorus of “no” or “oh no!” or “no no.” But he says it so cheerfully it makes me laugh most of the time. I imagine it’s only a matter of time before the word finds itself into his tantrums, but until then I think I’ll try to focus on teaching him how to nod and say the word “yes.”

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