Tantrums. Or is it tantra?

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October 9, 2013 by Dadinator

It’s tantrums. The word isn’t derived from anything cool in Latin, the internet told me so. It cropped up in 1714.

Don’t confuse it with tantra: one of the later Hindu or Buddhist scriptures dealing especially with techniques and rituals including meditative and sexual practices; also :  the rituals or practices outlined in the tantra. Merriam-Webster online dictionary. Yes, its that ‘tantric sex’ thing.

But now that I’ve linked the two words in my own mind, I will never be able to think of either without a bit of a giggle… I hope I’ve just done the same for all of you.

Our boy is nearly 2. He is usually affable, cheerful and even ebullient.  I just really wanted to use the word ebullient…. I’m bringing it back. But he’s got a tendency nowadays to go to DEFCON 7, red alert, code blue or whatever you want to call it every so often. Here’s an example of a conversation in which this might happen:

I’ll chose an example that casts our parenting in the best possible light (for our son only asks for nutritious food and drink and never ever asks to watch TV….. Honest)

The Lad has run into the pantry again. Its happened 3 times already on this hypothetical day. We have a latch on the door to the pantry, but we forget it, or if cooking we dart in and out for milk, eggs, flour and the like. His toddler tunnel vision has led him in the direction of our impressively colossal jar of dried dates, which he picks up grinning.

“Dates!” he says, beaming as if celebrating the fact he is holding them, the fact he knows what they are, the fact that he can say the word and the fact that he is learning how to ask for things all at the same time. Now for his reward, gazing expectantly at the closest parent.

Like on the two previous attempts he is denied, however. Its too close to a meal, or he’s had enough dates for the day or he hasn’t finished the last date he was given. It is really quite amazing how often it is this third option. Sometimes he’s asking for food through a mouthful of food over a heaped plate of food.

He pauses for a moment in shock. He seems to think he may have been misunderstood, “Dates” he repeats. Again, dates appear to not be forth coming.

I can see it from a distance. A wave of uncontrollable anguish, anger, despair and fury is ripping through The Lad’s little body. It ripples from the ground up, tension, as he arches his back, throws his face to the heavens and cries “oooooo hooooooo!!!!” Expelling every last millilitre of air from his tiny lungs. His gaze turns to whichever parent denied him his dates, tears already bubbling from his eyes and he starts to sob or squeal. If it’s a bad one he might then collapse to the ground, as if taking cover from a tsunami, a nuclear bomb or some other disaster. Its the classic duck and cover, as he shrinks into a little ball of indignance and anger.

He isn't actually tantruming in this photo. But it looks cool....

He isn’t actually tantruming in this photo. But it looks cool….

20 seconds later, though, he has usually calmed down, forgotten his episode and is cheery again. Whether he got whatever he was demanding appears to make little or no difference, the tide goes back out and the sea returns to its normal level. He’s moved on to the next thing, chasing a cat, pressing buttons on some other audio torture device musical toy or asking for strawberries instead.

Temper tantrums are strange things. Seeing them in action now makes me think of those highly emotional moments from Shakespeare, and I’m talking dark Shakespeare; Othello, Lear or Hamlet. They also remind me, perhaps even a little more strongly, of Greek Tragedy, choruses declaiming “Oi Moi!” amidst death, destruction and calamity, in spite of the fact that everyone saw it coming at the start of the play. Oh, and yes, I am a theatre geek, thanks for asking.

So, who knows how much more of this we can expect. I’m sure he doesn’t enjoy these sporadic outbreaks of the wobblies. I’m sure if he had a choice he wouldn’t do it and I’m sure it will pass. I’m also sure when The Lass reaches that stage she’ll have her own special way of unleashing her unregulated emotion that will be distinct from her big brother.

So, that’s an outline of what is involved in an Lad Mk 1 temper tantrum. I’m certain they will evolve as he grow. Here’s my tips on how to survive them when your child starts to edge towards the ‘terrible twos’:

1.) Do your best to keep your cool. This is a general piece of advice for all those trying parenting moments. Kid won’t sleep, kid eats cat litter and spreads it through the house, kid pulls up the recently planted rosemary…. Getting mad just makes it worse, stresses the kid out and makes the tantrum worse.

2.) It’s not them. It’s not their fault that they have a tantrum and it is no fun for them to go through it. They have lost control of their emotions and are being ruled by them.

3.) It’s not you. Don’t take it personally. Tantrum’s rarely have anything to do with you specifically. Sure there are ways you can organise your life to minimise the chance of a tantrum, but it’s just a risk-management exercise.

4.) Ignorance is bliss. I know it’s easier said than done, but ignoring the tantrum has proven to be the best way to manage it for us. Obviously intervene if the kid is in a dangerous situation, of it it goes on and on and on…

Now, watch to see if I end up eating my words in 6 months time when The Lad is 2.5 years old….

Godspeed to all of you with 2 or 3 year olds.


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