Tuesday 18 November 2008

Isaac and Jeremiah

Two MAJOR tantrums from Boy #1 this evening - to the extent that I am just about wrung out. And why? Well, have you got a moment?

Tantrum #1 - let's call it Tantrum Isaac, since that is how far down the alphabet I believe we've travelled since the beginning of term - probably rated a 4 on the scale. It blew up out of a relatively cloudless sky shortly after bath time. Admittedly, it did follow a short squall over dinner that dissapated amazingly quickly once gingerbread cake was promised for pudding if all the main course of gnocchi was eaten, but there was no hint of the mayhem that then followed when I refused to top up Boy #1's milk immediately, the moment he asked for it. I was making a telephone call, and asked him to wait a couple of minutes, hence the sudden and unexpected visit from Isaac.

I dealt with it as best I could, confining the eye of the storm to his room for 5 long minutes of time out, during which time Isaac blew itself out with shouts of 'Milk! Milk! Milk!', 'I'm not your best boy any more, mama!' and the classic 'I've been in here for HOURS!' We made up, apologies and kisses were given, calm was restored, and normal service was resumed.

Or so I thought.

Isaac may have been powerful, however, but it was nothing compared to Tantrum Jeremiah, which arrived 20 minutes later when I switched off the television 7 minutes earlier than normal. I wouldn't usually do this - both my Boys look forward to their tv probably more than they should - but Nick Jr were showing seven, yes, that's SEVEN, minutes of adverts before the next scheduled programme, and whilst I'm OK with the boys sitting through a couple of minutes of pleas to buy the latest Power Ranger / Hot Rod / Baby Born / Gameboy etc, 7 minutes seemed just a little excessive and rather manipulative no matter what the time of year.

So, I switched it off.

My oh my, Jeremiah was what I believe they call a Doozy. Screaming, shouting, pleading, throwing himself on the floor, you name it; it must have registered a 5 on the Tantrum scale. Clearly, Boy #1 was over-tired, and the simplest thing would just have been to give in and turn the blasted box back on, but I couldn't, for two very simple reasons.

Firstly, if I give in to that behaviour then I am making a rod for my own back in the future; being consistent and sticking to your guns is one of the only ways to exert control over your children, so I knew that if I gave in I had lost not just this but many future confrontations.

And secondly, who was standing wide-eyed, watching the whole performance? Boy #2. Who, just for the record, had already been sent to the Naughty Chair (for spitting out his food and repeatedly getting down from the table) during dinner. So it was doubly important that he also saw justice being carried out for his brother.

Tantrum Jeremiah was sent to blow itself out in Boy #1's bedroom. It took a little longer than it's predecessor, but it did die down eventually, and is now all forgotten by my beloved older son.

Whilst it was dying down I had Boy #2 on my lap in another room, and was calmly trying to explain to a spooked two year old that his brother was fine, would be OK in a couple of minutes, that mama was not a monster (OK, I didn't say that but - even though I knew I was doing the right thing - it felt like I was being one), and that Time Out was what happens when you behave badly like that.

I don't know about you, but when Husband and I became parents, we agreed that smacking / hitting / physically punishing our children was not on the agenda. You don't hit an adult, we reasoned, so why would you hit someone whom you supposedly love even more than life, who is defenceless, and who is less than half your size?

I still believe that, really I do. And I still believe that Time Out is the most effective and the best way of dealing with these situations.

But god, it's exhausting being the Grown-Up sometimes.


  1. And it never stops, only when they get older they just keep on and on at you, thinking attrition of parent will eventually occur. They're far too big to even consider hitting but my god you can shout!!

  2. We work the traffic light system. Or at least my daughter does. "Mum, you are nearly on amber!" It works every time! (Liked this post a lot. We don't have Nick JR. any more and I'm GLAD!!!)

  3. Two out of my three did the tantrum thing. Youngest, when removed to a time out outside (when throwing a wobbly because she'd been told not to stand on her chair whilst eating lunch at the table).. drummed her heels into the pavers so hard she drew blood and couldn't wear shoes for a couple of weeks.

    We did wonder then if a swift smack may have been a better option to "timeout"!!! Choose a safer venue for timeout you say? Oh, but then you can give yourself carpet burn on your nose!

    If it's any consolation, she pretty much grew out of the tantrums by the time she started school.

    [Now I just have to deal with the eldest yelling accusations that we are unreasonable....]

  4. Yes, consistency is the best policy. Timeouts are an extremely effective solution to the tantrum problem. Worked very well for my boy #1 as he hated to be removed from sight, not so good for boy #2 as he was a headbanger! Fortunately I found that if I held him under my arm with his arms and legs flailing harmlessly to the front and back of me, he pretty soon ran out of steam. Good thing he was a skinny little article! We reverted to the time out tactic when he outgrew the headbanging phase. It's such fun being a parent.

    BTW when he was 5 years old, boy #1 told everyone who would listen that he would rather live with Snow White's Wicked stepmother than me.... Just letting you get prepared. Personally I considered my work to be done ;-)

  5. Consistency is good, but tiring, as you say.

    Ultimately, they need to know who is in charge, because the world would be a very scary place indeed for a small child if he found out that he was calling all the shots (much as he thinks he'd like to). They test the boundaries, and are angry with them, but their security depends on finding them there.

  6. Well done for sticking to your guns! I often watch parents giving up without even a whisper of a fight and their children don't know if they are coming or going as the boundaries are non-existent. You may find it tiring now but when they are older they will be stable, trustworthy, self confident children with a good moral compass! Your hard work will be done and those who have not stuck it out will still be hard at it!

    People often used to say how lucky my Mum was to have such well behaved daughters. She always left them in no doubt that it had nothing to do with luck but everything to do with hard work and consistency!

  7. Keep strong - and then crack open the wine. You've earned it!

    (for you though, not the boys of course!)

  8. We're on to the silent treatment now "Come back here while I'm talking to you!" In fact that should read "shouting ineffectually at you..."

    Stick at it. Consistency is definitely A Good Thing.

  9. It sounds like you handled the whole thing with poise and serenity, a text book example on how to deal with it all, and one I could have done with following when mine was the same age. I wish you'd been there when he threw a whopper under the T-Rex skeleton in the entrance hall of the Natural History Museum. At least I would have had someone to take me to the pub for a large G&T afterwards.

  10. EPM, I just can't wait...

    HT, wise decision on Nick Jr. Very wise...

    Tracey, well of COURSE you are unreasonable; you're her parents and you have her best interests at heart. What is reasonable about that?

    Sharon, I think it's only a matter of time before we get to the wicked stepmother stage. Oh well - at least I haven't had 'I HATE you!' yet...

    Iota, you're so right. I know that - we all do, probably - but sometimes it's just so tiring sticking to your guns.

    MdP, a good moral compass, I will remember that phrase and remind my son of it when he next tells me that turning off the tv at 7.30pm is unfair.

    Mud, don't worry. I didn't assume that just because you are child-free you thought I should be feeding them wine (as it happens, they don't like the smell of it, anyway...)

    GPM, ah, the teen years. What a treat I have ahead - my thoughts are with you!

    And FK, textbook, yes, that's me. If textbook includes hysterical laughter, chasing your son around the dining room table, and wondering just how you got here - textbook it is.

  11. Wow. Those were some storms. I've had a few lately too, knowing that JG is overtired and has been sick.

    Great description of it all.

    I know what you mean about the ads too. What is up with them putting more and more in there? Enough is enough already.


Go on - you know you want to...