Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Tantrums in 6 year olds - how to play it?

As the children grow, I enjoy that they are more open to reason and the days of irrational strops are over. And then, one of them blindsides me with a nuclear tantrum and I am left questioning whether I do, in fact, meet the essential criteria for being a parent.

Yesterday, Hugh and I had a fight over 'the wrong apricot'. It became a nerve-jangling battle of wills. I stuck to the received mantra of,  don't back down, you can never back down, you will look weak, they will win and behave abominably, whenever they feel like it.

We were locked down in a stalemate of misery, much like most of world politics. He wailed and screamed and sobbed because I stopped him grabbing a 'different' dried apricot from the tub, while shoving back one he had already pawed (with playground hands). He had several on his plate, plus other after-school snacks.

I tried to stick to plan A and put the apricot tub in a high cupboard. Did I have any idea this would lead to an hour of white rage? 'Course not. But half an hour in, I couldn't lose ground, could I?! Super Nanny and orthodox wisdom were yelling, 'hold firm, woman!'

Yet he was distraught - refusing to eat anything, sobbing on the floor. Crying. Kicking. In and out of The Naughty Porch.  I offered stop-gap compromises (cashews or pistachios?). So West End. But he was locked in to his position, almost helpless, exhausted after school. My own nerves were jangled and I was desperate to help him, without 'giving in' to 'bad' behavior.

So, next time - for there will be one - I wondered about unilateral disarmament. Saying, okay, I know you are doing an expert Horrid Henry impersonation, but I'll give you one chance. IF I let you swap apricots, then you must start to behave. Because behave-and-*then*-we-will-consider- apricot-swapping was failing spectacularly.
It reminded me of the years when I shared a room with my sister. I was always the one who got out of bed to turn out 'the big light' after reading. One night I refused, and asked her to do it. She's not a Taurean for nothing. An hour later, I stumbled over to the light switch, defeated, crying. We laugh at it now.

A battle-of -wills eats up time. Maybe I'll try allowing the 'right' apricots and then set up some other part 2 sanction. If you don't behave post-apricot swap, I swear I will..., have to think of something. Dear readers, I will let you know.

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