Thursday, November 20, 2008

coping with cloudy skies

We have been struggling with temper tantrums around here lately.

When my spouse and I turned to the Internets for advice, we came up with some wildly different, even contradictory advice:

1. We need to institute a "systematic behavior management plan" that includes time-outs. The time out should not start until he is seated and quiet.

If I could get him to be seated and quiet, I wouldn't need a time out.

2. We need to investigate his diet and exposure to allergens. Also, hugs are more effective than time outs:
"Until you find one that works, however, hold your son gently when he falls apart and talk to him softly in a singsong."
When my son is having a tantrum, I can't really get my arms around him and the screaming tends to drown out my gentle crooning.

3. Call the cops and have the kid arrested.

This is what one Florida school did:

"To subdue the unruly kindergartner, school officials phoned Avon Park's police department ("committed to enhancing the 'Quality of Life' of the community"). When the cops arrived, young Desre'e attempted to resist arrest by crawling under a table. But Avon Park's finest pulled her out, cuffed her, put her in a police cruiser, drove her to the county jail, and charged this 50-pound menace with a felony and two misdemeanors."

I think I'll call the doctor, make sure he never gets too hungry, talk to his teachers (they assure me that the tantrums are not occurring at school or day care), reinforce good behaviour and keep hoping that it's just a phase...



Mary P Jones (MPJ) said...

"If I could get him to be seated and quiet, I wouldn't need a time out."

Ha! This is the same reason I don't use time outs. Are there people that technique really works for?

Anonymous said...

Heh. I think the time out thing works for certain kids with certain personalities. Worked great for my daughter. Son could care less. I'm in the same tantrum boat so I've got nuttin. I'm thinking hard labor. Grins.

Dee said...

My son was about two when he had his temper tantrums and even then there were only a few of them. At the time, I think I didn't allow him to get his way and just held him on my lap while I sat on the floor so that he didn't hurt himself.

More recently (the last year or so), at age 8, when he got angry at me because I didn't allow him to do something, what I found is that if I answered him more aggressively or assertively (i.e., with a raised voice), that exacerbated the problem. If I stayed calm, however, held my ground, and then I either gave him a hug or I just said, "I still love you even if you're mad at me", he tended to calm down sooner. I used a firm, no-nonsense voice, said he still wasn't going to get his way, that I knew he was mad at me but that was okay and even though he was mad, I still loved him no matter what. That seemed to go farther than raising my voice.

Then, again, different personalities might require different responses. I don't think there's any such thing as a one-size fits all approach. My son is a fairly quiet boy, not too rambunctious, so perhaps the quieter approach works better with him.

I read this column by John Rosemond, who likes more "old-fashioned" ways of doing things (i.e., 50s and 60s-type). He's a proponent of consistently applied discipline where the child knows who's boss. I'm thinking he said something about having the child go to his or her room and letting him or her have the tantrum without an audience. I think he said to say, "go ahead - have the tantrum - when you're calm enough to talk, you can come out and we can talk about it". Something like that anyway. That way, the child realizes that the tantrum won't bring him attention, but that talking in a calm manner will. Made sense to me.

Good luck! A year or so ago, I read an interview with Emma Thompson (I think) in a parenting magazine. She said something along the lines that parenting is wonderful and all that, but also that it's very frustrating and requires a lot of patience and hard work. It was nice to hear someone not just pontificate about how wonderful it is, but also how hard it is.

Unknown said...

Hey Lori

Resonating with Dee here...with our kids we never used timeouts, reasoning that when they are most emotionally distressed, they are most in need of connection and belonging. We learned and have practiced for a long time, just to be present for them and to acknowledge their feelings without getting triggered ourselves. It's not always possible, but with practice, it's easier. Always remember that these ittle people love you unconditionally and that when they are angry beyond words, they are just angry beyond words. It doesn't mean anything.

Also, it is a phase. That is the good news. It will pass, so hang in there!

Lene Andersen said...

Oh! My! GAWD!!! They arrested a kid in KINDERGARTEN?!??? For a TANTRUM?? What is wrong with these people??? I think my blood pressure just skyrocketed. And have no thoughts beyond wanting to arrest the mumbskulls who called the cops and the numbskulls who arrested the poor kid. Way to traumatize a kid, you (descend into incoherent swearing)

Anonymous said...

My now-18 yr old had amazing tantrums every evening on our way home from day care. I felt like the most incompetent mother in the world, and thought she just hated to see me. Nothing I could do helped her.
Eventually, we saw a child psychologist who said that her day was too long and hard for her, and that she was afraid to fall apart anywhere but with me, so I got it all. We worked on teaching her self-soothing for both of us.
She was her school validictorian, nad is now in college, despite her learning disabilities. So the long road was definitely worth it.

jacqueline said...

ear plugs :)

laurie said...

Thank you all for the good advice and for making me smile. I feel so much better.