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Sunday, June 26, 2011

I Want to Hit My Mommy!

If you have a toddler, have ever had a toddler, or have ever been within 100 feet of a toddler, you know all about temper tantrums.  I'm pretty sure that somewhere there is a manual titled How to be a Successful Toddler, and the first five chapters are all about how to execute a good temper tantrum.  They're almost like a rite of passage.  You will never grow up to be a successful adult who contributes to society if you don't throw some amazing tantrums.  So, if tantrums are a requirement for being a well-adjusted and contributory adult, then my son is going to win the Nobel Peace Prize as he has perfected the art of tantrum throwing.

Now, back when Gavin was younger, say around 2, he threw some decent tantrums (or so I thought at the time).  Sure, we had the the "I don't want to go" tantrums and the "I don't want to eat that" tantrums, but who doesn't?  At the time, these pesky little tantrums tested my patience and frustrated me, but looking back, they were nothing.  At best, they lasted five minutes, involved some crying, screaming, and an occasional throwing of the body onto the ground.  I had no idea what they could manifest into.

Suddenly, shortly before Gavin turned 3, he gained a whole new set of skills relating to temper tantrums.  The first really good one occurred after we left a McDonald's play place.  The problems started the moment Gavin entered the play place.  He wanted to slide and go through the tunnels, but he was scared.  So, he would get halfway up, into some hard-to-see and not easily accessed area of the play place, and then start crying.  "I don't want to slide down the slide."  Then don't.  Just come back down, and we'll go home.  So, down he would come, only to start crying, "I want to slide down the slide."  But you just said you didn't want to slide down the slide.  Back into the play place he would go, only to decide he didn't want to slide.  And back and forth we went, until finally, exhausted, I told him we were leaving. 

Commence tantrum.  He crawled back into the play place, and I crawled in after him, picked him up, and set him on the chair to put his shoes on.  As I did this, all hell broke loose.  He started swinging at me, and he even connected a few times.  He screamed, "Mommy, STOP!" over and over until every person in the place was staring at me like I was hurting my child.  There was spitting and kicking; it was a sight to see.  I somehow managed to stay calm, carry him over my shoulder (still kicking, screaming, and acting like I was torturing him), and strap his naughty butt in the car seat.  Whew!  I thought.  Now that were out of there, he'll calm down.  Oh, how naive I was.

The famous McDonald's Tantrum.
Once we were on the road, he didn't stop crying, he didn't calm down, and he took the tantrum to a whole new level.  He screamed and screamed and screamed.  I thought to myself: I'll just ignore him.  That's what you're supposed to do, right?  Ignore him, and he'll stop.  So, I stared straight ahead and turned up the radio.  Well, that clearly just pissed him off.  The next thing I know, shoes are flying at me and hitting me square in the back of the head.  He's cries of "I want to go down the slide" changed to "I don't like you Mommy!  I want my Daddy!"  So, how did I handle this?  I whipped out my phone and snapped a picture of him.  Let me tell you, that went over well.  He screamed and cried the rest of the 15 minute drive home (after his socks, there was nothing else to throw at me), and then I took him (kicking and screaming), put him in his room, and shut the door.  I estimate that, by the time he finally calmed down, 30 minutes has elasped.

This tantrum was a 9 out of 10.  Notice he has no shoes on.

I'd like to pretend that this type of tantrum only happened once, but you'd have to give me a seriously strong whack on the head (and not with a shoe, please) to make me forget some of the other ones.  Gavin seems to have a preference to grocery store tantrums.  These usually involve screaming, kicking, standing up in the front of the cart,  hitting, throwing things, and (of course) statements that make people think I'm beating him.  My favorite part, though, is when he starts yelling, "I want to hit my mommy!"  Nice, kid, nice.  I'm sorry, let me just go ahead and allow you hit me.  Feel better now?  Great!  Once, I walked through Meijer, pulling the cart from the front (my solution to him trying to hit me, which makes him yell about how he wants to hit me), while he hollered for almost 35 minutes.  And the whole time, I smiled at all the other shoppers like I was trying out to be the next Miss America. (I momentarily stopped to document the tantrum with a photo, of course)

So, how do I get him to calm down and eventually stop throwing a tantrum.  I just let it run its course.  I'm sure there are better methods, but my thinking is this:  It's pretty hard being a toddler, having all these feelings and not knowing how to express them.  Sometimes, they just need to get them all out.  So, purge my child, purge.  And you know what, when he's done and all the bad feelings are purged, he's really great the rest of the day.  (I do, of course, dole out consequences for the hitting - but more on that another time.) Seems like a fair trade for 35 minutes of embarrassing and frustrating hell!


  1. So, I've been there; I know how embarrassing/frustrating those tantrums are. But I was laughing out loud when I got to the pictures. You've given me an idea. I need to share the video we got of one of Avery's tantrums. You're right, though. They need to get that frustration out. Let them have at it. I'm thinking any pediatrician worth their shit would tell you that's the way to go. What else can you do?

  2. I hate when I get stuck with strays. I had a pretty big dog in my backyard in the spring, from me leaving the gate open, however. So, I just had to wait until he was ready to leave. And oh, he had his girlfriend with him.