Friday, July 25, 2008

Tantrumology -- study of a meltdown

I think I must have an odd fascination with temper tantrums because I've seen adults as well as children have them. The photographs of tantrums are especially interesting to me and I am surprised to find some very good ones on just now. The photos are good but the captions are hysterical. My fascination is also rooted in childhood when I observed other children throwing fits(sometimes my poor little sister did too). So about a year ago in my office, it was coworker Jon who described a 'meltdown' his daughter Lauren had. He sounded so amazed as this was one of his first experiences of his daughter's ill-humor as a new father. This prompted me to do a little research and so here are the results from various parents as they discussed via e-mail with Jon what they know:

Tom McCollum wrote:
Jon, I have daughters aged 2 and 5. When the older one throws a tantrum, I usually get mad back. When the 2 y.o. throws one (and she is much better at tantrums than Sonia was), I usually laugh at the fury that hides inside her. This morning that was not the case. Raquel got mad at me because I started to mix her cream-of-wheat-like cereal. Instead of hitting me, spitting or throwing something at me (she is capable of all three!) she grabbed the half mixed bowl and pulled it to herself. And it spilled all over her. What could I do then? I was mad, she was mad. I decided to walk away for a few minutes and let her wallow in the mush. Then I came back, changed her clothes and cleaned it up. I didn't have to get mad at her for making a HUGE mess - she seemed to understand that. At some point, she said sorry without my prompting. Actually what is so funny about Raquel trying to spit on someone is that she can't even spit! To her it's all about the noise of her lips and the aggression of the action. She has no idea that spitting on some is really about leaving your spit on someone's face. Maybe I'm weird, but I find 2 y.o. tantrums to be far more funny than anything else. I am SO inclined to laugh. My one piece of advice in anything you are doing is to be consistent. We weren't the most consistent with Sonia (older) and have been much better with Raquel. Good luck.

Ron Soper wrote:
Jonathan, Assuming Lauren's immediate needs are met (she isn't hungry, she is well rested, she is dry and is not experiencing stomach pains), temper tantrums can usually be solved by a time-out period. She may be needing your attention as well. She also may be going through an early stage of "the terrible two's in which there is no easy fix. If a time out session does not work, put Lauren in her crib and assuming your crib has tall slats that she cannot climb out, she will probably just temper tantrum herself to sleep.
Good Luck,

Jonathan Kang wrote:
Ron, I don't know if the timeout thing would work for her right now. I tried letting her cry herself out and she went on for quite some time. She's going through the terrible two's a little early I think. I did some research and what appears to work is to catch her "flair-ups" quickly with lots of hugs and kisses. My wife Lisa and I are finding out that she's developing a little attitude and sometimes the "monster" comes out. The hardest part is that we want to give her what she wants when she gets upset but also set boundaries so she doesn't end up controlling us. I think children are smarter than we often perceive them to be but they just have a hard time expressing themselves because of a lack of their language skills. Thanks for the encouragement. I wish she was always so cheerful like in these recent photos.

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