Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Danny Do'gain and the terrible tantrums

At the park yesterday, I watched several mommies of younger, more compliant children, and thought, "I miss those days." And then, of course, I cackled (on the inside) because they have no idea that their sweet little baby will soon turn into a demon-possessed toddler.

We've noticed a marked increase in the duration, intensity and volume of Danny's tantrums in the past week. The trigger can be anything from a desperate need for grapes RIGHT NOW to his reluctance to nap, come inside for dinner, leave the park, go to bed or just do anything that's not his idea. We had been ignoring his tantrums and carrying on with whatever action he's protesting. Now he comes after us, hurling himself at cabinets and onto the floor, wrapping himself around my legs or trying to hit me, screaming and spitting at us.

These days, even bedtime has become a battle. This used to be the easiest part of the day. He would collect Dennis the monkey and blankie, plunk his smoothie cup in the sink and we would all go upstairs as a family and say good night to God. Now he hurls himself at the television when Curious George ends. He's figured out how to turn the TV and the tuner back on. He alternately screams and dawdles. Once upstairs, the whining begins - water, that special matchbox, a round of do 'gains. After tucking him in, all is quiet for a few minutes. Then we hear chirping, yelping, barking, screaming and banging on doors and the gate for the next half hour. Luckily, he hasn't figured out how to climb over the gate ... yet.

I usually stay far away from people with this level of emotional intensity, so being in close proximity to this is more than a little jarring. I'm torn between whether I should ignore this behavior or help him deal with his torrent of emotions. I did remember and employ a technique today in the battle against do 'gain. There's really no telling how long this game of "do it again" with a toddler can last. I don't have the time or energy to find out. So instead of refilling his watering can again and risking him drowning our plants or a meltdown for refusing the request, I told him to pretend and made water pouring sounds. It actually worked.

Today has been a rare good day, which means that I've been different not that he's been any better behaved. And that's what I always come back to. I'm the adult here and the one who (usually) has capacity to modify my approach to meet conditions on the ground. That doesn't mean that we let him run all over us. The rules are the rules, bedtime is 8:30, grapes are not the only food on the menu and the five minute warning stands, among other frequent battles. But if I can prevent some tantrums from ever happening, we're all happier.

For now, I'm going to bed. I must sleep to do battle another day.

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