Kids’ tantrums – they just swoop down on you when you least expect them, don’t they? One minute you’re swanning around in the innocent bliss of motherhood (ok, you’re doing the laundry and sweeping up food crumbs, whatevs), the next, you’re dealing with a contorted, angry red face, floods of tears and rampant screaming and yelling. And that’s just you. (And by ‘you’, I mean ‘me’.) Last night, my feisty little 2.5 year old (that’s peak tantrum age, y’know) lost it so hard when I attempted to wash her hair in the bath that she threw up. In the bath. Which then started a secondary tantrum from my five-year-old son, who also happened to be in there. Can’t say I blame him, I’m still a little traumatised by the event myself. So in the interests of teaching others from my vast wealth of experience on the topic, here are 10 of the speediest ways to ensure a little person’s large rage.
1. Provide assistance
Normally, life as a mother is one
request demand for assistance after another. ‘Mum, I need water!’ ‘Mum, I immediately require a band-aid for a sore on my leg that’s invisible to the naked eye!’ ‘Mum, there’s something in my eye, you have to hold it open and ask me to look up, down and to the side!’ etc, etc. But gee willikers, the minute you dare offer them some assistance that they don’t want – like, oh, say, helping them to move a toothbrush in delicate circles over their teeth as opposed to just sucking the toothpaste off and then using the brush as a drumstick on the toilet seat – well, it’s all over, red rover. Gentle suggestions that perhaps they don’t have the necessary fine motor skills to complete the task to the satisfaction of the dentist will sadly only increase the howling. Even threats of teeth turning black and falling out are ignored. And bugger me if we don’t have to go through this whole palaver twice a damn day.
2. Suggest a change of venue
Rest assured that whatever your child is currently doing, is what they want to keep on doing. Forever. Pity the fool who dares suggest otherwise. Time to stop watching TV to go to the park? Whoa, Nelly. Time to finish playing at the park and come home? Ay, carumba! Swiftly the astute parent learns that attempting to change venues without a series of ‘countdown cues’ is a very dangerous undertaking, which is why at playgrounds and play centres the world over, we can be heard saying with trepidation, ‘All right, sweetheart, seven more minutes and we’ll think about getting ready to go home, mmkay?’ Yes, we all Learned The Hard Way.
3. Offer anything but whole foods
No, I’m not suggesting that children will have tantrums if they can’t eat healthy food in its unadulterated state, don’t be ridiculous. I’m referring to the blood-curling howl that inevitably ensues should you dare to present your child with a food (processed, more than likely) that has been broken, snapped in two or is in anything other than it’s
god-given man-made shape. Accidentally broke your child’s cheesestick in half while unwrapping it? Well listen up and listen good – GET A NEW CHEESESTICK. Eat that tasteless piece of plastic yourself, throw it away, do with it what you will. Just don’t give it to your child. Trust me on this. Once, as a naive, inexperienced mother, I bought my child a gingerbread man and, deeming it too large for her, broke off the head for her to eat. THE HORROR!
4. Attempt to remove the vile stench emanating from their bottom region
They’ve pooed. You know it, they know it, heck, anyone who comes within a 5km radius of them knows it. It’s not going anywhere and it’s getting more potent by the minute. Anyone would think they’d be begging you to be free of it. But no, instead you have to get down on your hands and knees, crawl under the dining table (where the stench has started to take on human form) and chase them around the table leg as they flail about in hysterics and give you a mini heel to the temple. All so you can do something that rates alongside stabbing your thigh with a fork on the enjoyment-o-meter. Kids, eh?
5. Ask them to choose a toy for you to buy them
I mean, you took them into Target. That was clearly your first mistake. Then in a wave of generosity (or possibly an attempt at bribery), you asked them to select their favourite train/Lego/piece of Frozen merchandise. Yes, just the one. Well, it was never going to end well, was it? You know those crazy-eyed, wild-haired beings you often see fleeing Target, with a smaller, more crazy-eyed, wilder-haired being bucking wildly under one arm? Spare them some sympathy, they were only trying to be nice.
6. Offer them a square meal
You know, something along the lines of ‘breakfast’, ‘lunch’ or ‘dinner’. One of my daughter’s first complete sentences, still used several times a day, was, ‘I want summink ELSE’. (It was irrelevant whether she’d actually had ‘summink’ to start with.) But clearly she’d finessed her older brother’s response whenever I suggested that he might want to eat something substantial that perhaps included a vegetable, instead of a constant steady stream of crackers, bickies, and other foods that fall under the subhead of ‘snacks’. Let it be stated for the record. Summink ELSE cannot be found in a fruit bowl or vegetable crisper, only THAT shelf in the pantry. Worse still, is when you not only insist on them eating dinner rather summink ELSE, but dinner is still half an hour away. Look out, sister.
7. Suggest they rest their legs while shopping
There comes a day when your beloved infant is no longer content to be pushed around in a pram while you grocery shop. So you set them loose and spend the next 10 minutes nearly having a heart attack as they tear up and down the aisles, yank things off the shelves and vanish into thin air the moment your back is turned. You regain your sanity and decide the time is long overdue to
restrain them have them sit in the trolley. Please? If you wouldn’t mind terribly? Well, yes, they would mind. Terribly. Cue that challenging and highly awkward experience of arching your back as you haul a 16kg child aloft and attempt to insert those little chubby thighs into the trolley holes, while little crazy arms flack you in the face and disturbingly strong little legs kick the trolley away from you as you stagger after it. Sigh. If only we didn’t have to eat.
8. Ensure their safety
It’s kind of a gift that toddlers can make you feel like the cruellest person in the world because you don’t want them to a) sprint across the road into the path of an oncoming truck, b) roll around the back of the car like that apple in the boot that always falls out of the grocery bags, c) topple headfirst out of a pram or swing or d) sustain a serious head injury on a scooter. Yes, little one, I’m sure it does cramp your style, but I’m afraid I DO value your life so I WILL hold your hand and strap you in and make you wear a helmet. So, if you wouldn’t mind, enough with the yanking of the hands and the starfishing of the body and the hyperventilating and the dribbly drool wailing, all right?!
9. Clothe them
It’s winter. It’s cold. I get that you want to run around in the nude. I do. I get that clothes are restrictive. I feel your pain. But I’m a-gonna have to insist you wear them. No, the tutu doesn’t count. Oh, here we go…
Look, I try to throw most of the games we play, kid, but some of them are beyond my control. Snakes and ladders? You can’t control that shit. And I know you can’t hear me over your anguished wailing and thrashing of the head from side to side, but one day you’re going to thank me for teaching you a valuable lesson about life’s ups and downs. Now, put on this jacket, eat this half a bickie, get your helmet on and let’s scoot to the park, okay? Just make sure you hold my hand when we cross the road…
*Disclaimer: When not tantruming, my kids are the coolest kids ever. Just sayin’.
What are/were the surefire tantrum triggers in your household?