Please send help. We have a tantrum monster in our house.
One moment she’s sweet as pie, saying bye-bye to gramps and gram on FaceTime and making them coo with delight and the next minute she’s dropped to the floor and is screaming so hard her face turns red. For no apparent reason.
Well, there seem to be vague reasons: She wants to walk and can’t yet manage more than a few steps on her own. She wants to hold on to that soft fuzzy toy in the bath and we won’t let her. She wants that pasta we just made but no….wait…now she really, really doesn’t want it. She wants us to hold her but also put her down and let her walk. She wants us to read this book, no that book, no THAT BOOK!!
It is, to put it mildly, kind of frustrating. What makes it worse is that Marta and I have no idea how to handle it.
I’m of the mind that ignoring her will work best. I believe this comes from my Mom, who read in her famous Dr. Spock book that you should ignore a baby if that baby throws such a big tantrum she ends up passing up. Said baby was me. Apparently I got very upset once when mom wouldn’t let me sleep with my wet towel and then another time when I got stuck in a stool. Both times I screamed so hard I passed out.
Dr. Spock recommended acting like nothing had happened, which my mom did. And after those two times I never did it again. Thanks Dr. Spock!
So with Nico, my thinking goes: if she starts to throw a tantrum, we should just let her scream it out there on the floor and ignore her until she calms down. Then give her love and affection.
Marta points out (rightly so) that Nico’s going through a lot of changes right now (new daycare, new house, new semester) and maybe we should try to be a little more attentive, just for a few days. So last night we tried a combination of both approaches, neither of which worked very well. We tried to distract Nico from her tantrums and sooth her at first (she’s no longer fooled by my “Look there’s a tree!” trick). Then when that got tiring (I believe she threw about 15 mini-tantrums in the short time between when we picked her up from daycare and bedtime) we switched to my ignore-her approach.
That didn’t really work either.
So, of course, I went online and we both decided we’ll try the Baby Center approach next time around (or maybe there won’t be a next time??). Baby Center recommends sitting with your child during the tantrum, but not trying to sooth her until after she has calmed down. They say you should try to keep calm, which is almost laughable, and not give in to the tantruming child’s demands. That would be a good plan for us if we only knew what the fuck it is Nico wants most of the time (she’s now learned the sign for ayuda, or help, but she’ll use it and then we’re at a loss for what she needs help with).
I also read somewhere that it’s good to begin labeling the tantrum as such, so your child knows that you are giving her some space in those moments because she is having a “una rabieta” as we’ll call it in Spanish. If someone did this to me as an adult it would probably annoy the shit out of me (“You’re angry right now because you’re PMSing” is a close equivalent) but I’ll give Baby Center the benefit of the doubt and assume that Nico has yet to note condescending behavior in others.
Anyway, if you’re interested in the Baby Center’s “Seven Tips” for handling tantrums, here they are. If you are a seasoned mother and have some advice for ol Marta and me, please please post a comment. We’re desperate, really. Ditto if you’re a relative who wants to come down and take Nico away for a weekend or, hell, maybe even a week 🙂