Ah, the temper tantrum. What better way for a little one to draw immediate, undivided attention to himself? Whether you’re a parent, sibling, caretaker, or anyone who’s spent any amount of time in a grocery store, you’ve likely observed a tantrum. Take it one step further: we’ve all had them ourselves! Screaming, crying, banging, throwing things…every parent’s nightmare. Psychologically, tantrums are a child’s way of testing limits, exploring communication and testing the last axon of Daddy’s last nerve. Usually, parents feel embarrassed and helpless over the state of their child, praying for it to stop (though I must admit, Mason is usually remarkably serene and happy in public…it’s at home that he plays the tantrum game). Since Mason cannot talk yet, tantrums remain his main gateway to communicating his feelings and needs to us.
Mason has a Master’s Degree in temper tantrums. He knows just when to throw it and what to expect from it. No, I’m not saying he’s an unhappy baby, but like child transitioning from infant to toddler, he knows our buttons, how to push them, and in what sequence to achieve maximum effect. Locking him out of the bathroom? How dare we! He makes sure we know he’s livid.
I’ve taken the liberty of breaking down Mason’s tantrums into five basic types. Each comes with its own characteristics and manifestations of anger and sadness and Strength of Stress (SOS) on Mommy and Daddy.
Slug N’ Scream: This tantrum is most commonly demonstrated upon denying Mason an activity or access to a specific location, i.e. the bathroom or drawer underneath the oven. Mason crawls slowly towards an adult at about half the speed he normally crawl, crying loudly.
SOS: 2/5 – Usually mild and easily controllable with snack foods or funny faces.
Blue-faced Bitchin’: This was Mason’s first tantrum type. He screams, and screams…and screams…in one gigantic exhale, until he runs out of breath, at which point he holds…and holds…and holds, to the point that we question whether he’s lost the ability to inhale. Deep inhale..and a massive, eardrum-popping scream.
SOS: 5/5 – Very stressful, painful on ears, and usually continues despite any redirection attempt.
Whine N’ Whimper: Mason uses this tantrum when he’s feeling uncomfortable with something, or to indicate he’s somewhat unhappy and needs a change of pace, snuggle, hug, etc. Surprisingly, he does not use this tactic often, but when he does, it’s usually during the climax of a TV show where we kind of want to see what happens.
SOS: 1/5 – Easily taken care of, not loud at all, and after all, family comes before TV!
Fluid Freakout: This is specifically used by Mason when he’s thirsty. If he’s eating in his high chair, he begins with the Whine n’ Whimper, which quickly moves into loud crying. He then begins tossing food to the floor and banging the food tray. If not in the high chair, he displays loud cries and sometimes even heads for the refrigerator.
SOS: 3/5 – This is often taken that he doesn’t want his food which is very stressing. However, once liquids are administered, the tantrum immediately ceases.
Midnight Madness: This one’s a doozie. Mason is usually a pretty good sleeper, but if he wakes up without his “bing” (pacifier), he wants it back (we’re working on weaning him off of it). But it’s not always just “bing.” Sometimes, Mason just wants to snuggle with Mommy and Daddy, time be damned. This wish results on non-stop, blood curdling screaming similar with Blue-faced Bitchin’ until he’s satisfied.
SOS: 6/5 – Disrupted sleep for all, rarely redirected without giving in fully, and believe me, I know that it’s not good to establish a habit of kids on the parents’ bed. Gah!
As Mason learns some basic words to voice his needs, some of these tantrums will cease, only to be replaced by tantrums of just plain annoyance with any situation that rubs him the wrong way. Yay… just have to keep in mind that this is normal, a part of any child’s development in learning limits and boundaries. It’s all in how they are handled. That, and keeping the good behavior going at the grocery store!
How about you? How did you/do you handle temper tantrums?