Published on June 29th, 2013 | by Joe DeProspero0
Taming the Tantrum: Occasionally It’s Possible
[Big thanks to Dad Men Walking for having me on. I hope you’re ready for some brutal honesty, guys.]
When you look at an iconic leader such as Vince Lombardi or Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., what’s often overlooked is that they weren’t just hatched from eggs as the legends they turned out to be. Their parents conceived them, fed them, clothed them, and had a tremendous impact on their upbringing and education. But can you imagine being mom to a young, upstart Martin Luther King? He wakes you up at 3 a.m. on a Tuesday and announces, “I had a dream!” Your first reaction would not be to erect a statue in his honor. In fact, you’d probably roll your eyes and usher him back into his big-boy bed. After all, you stayed up the night before watching six straight episodes of Breaking Bad!
The point I’m trying desperately to make is that strong-minded adults were once incredibly annoying children. Now I’m not saying this applies directly to me. However, I will say that if my 4-year-old, Antonio, doesn’t grow up to be a man of strong conviction, those nights he absolutely insisted on changing his pajamas three times (before ultimately deciding on the first pair) will not at all seem worth the aggravation and screaming.
And if you’re a parent who has never suffered the indignity of standing helplessly by as your child flails on the floor of Toys R Us because you didn’t let him carry five Buzz Lightyears simultaneously while drinking a juice box and scratching his privates, then I’m happy for you. But if you’re like me and have a child who has a fit if you so much as make eye contact with him when he’s in a wretched mood, I think you’ll relate to this more than you’d like.
From my experience, there is a series of questions you need to ask yourself when your kid starts doing a war chant/rain dance and becomes intolerably inconsolable.
1. Am I in public?
Being in public vs. the privacy of your own home is the difference between wordlessly pulling your screaming kid to the side while whispering strong threats into their ears and a full-on, Christian Bale-like rage-fest, ending in a police visit. Potentially, the most difficult thing to pull off as a parent is disciplining your child without looking or feeling like a heartless a-hole.
2. Does he/she have a point?
Seriously. I consider this. If I promised chocolate and gave celery, I deserve the tantrum. Kick me in the knees and get it over with. I shouldn’t have been so misleading.
3. Are other parents watching me?
There is nothing worse than being watched by other people with kids while you’re seriously considering retribution against your own. You just know they’re judging you. The right move is to bottle the anger until your company leaves. They’ll actually think you’re level-headed, and you’ll get your revenge in private. It’s a win-win.
4. Will I follow through on my promise of pain?
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve threatened Antonio with something only to have Sonia, my wife, remind me, “Joe, no bluffing. Only say it if you’re gonna follow through.” And she’s absolutely right. I found this out the hard way one morning. Antonio was sitting way too close to the TV and flat out refused to move back an inch. Then, I said it. “Hey, if you don’t move back, I’m throwing you in the shower!” I should note that this had been threatened once before and the idea terrorized him. Surely, he’d cringe at my stern warning. But nothing. So I dragged him up the stairs (as my mother-in-law watched, mind you) literally kicking and screaming. I gave him one last fleeting chance to repent, but he was too busy convulsing. So in the shower he went! Neither of us could believe I’d followed through on a promise. But now I always have that as a viable threat in my back pocket.
5. How badly can I punish him/her without feeling like an awful person?
This really is the most important question, when all is said and done. Some parents are perfectly okay with water-boarding their kids while others flinch at the thought of denying them a brownie sundae. I tend to float somewhere in the middle. I couldn’t fathom truly hurting my children, but I refuse to be seen as a passive douche by letting my kid dump a bowl of Cheerios and milk over the head of a house guest. So I handle Antonio’s freak-outs with a series of punishment levels.
The first and least severe is the time out. Frankly, I think this punishment technique is kind of BS, but it works half the time. I put him in a room by himself and leave, telling him not to move a muscle. This generally doesn’t go over well (and he moves plenty of muscles), but at least he knows he’s being punished.
The next level is a time out with a closed-door kicker. If I put him in a room and close the door, he knows I mean business. Unfortunately, this more often than not results in serious damage to the door.
The final level of this disciplinary gauntlet is the dreaded shower. I swear, you’d think my son was a hippie by the sheer terror in his eyes when that water starts running. But like I said, if it works, it works. And it works.
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