Thursday, November 11, 2010

Our Little Tantrum Thrower

Oliver started throwing tantrums a few months ago. Thankfully, they were very short little scream fests that lasted about a minute (at the longest). Very recently, however, his tantrums have escalated. When he gets mad, he stretches out onto the floor and starts screaming and/or sobbing. They last indefinitely (yesterday, for example, was one long tantrum).

Yesterday was especially difficult for two reasons. One, Oliver wouldn't nap, so I couldn't get a break from said tantrum. Two, he threw his first public tantrum (OK, it was two). When Oliver refused to nap, I decided that I'd at least get my errands done. We went to the store. He did well there, pointing out various items so I could tell them what they were ("cookies!" "apples!" "ice cream!"). At check out, the lady behind us set down her box of mixed nuts. Oliver tried to hurl himself out of the cart to get to them. I tried to keep it light-hearted ("No, Oliver. No. Those aren't for us. They're a choking hazard!"). Within a few seconds, though, he started to whine. I pulled him out of the cart, hoping to prevent the upcoming tantrum. It didn't work. He started screaming and pointing at the nuts. It was a relief when a new check-out clerk came, and the lady behind me went to the other lane. As I went up to pay, though, Oliver started his tantrum all over again because he wanted my wallet. Sigh.

Oliver's tantrums aren't as severe with Andrew. When it's just them, Oliver might start to whine or yell, but Andrew says, "uh-uh," and Oliver typically stops. With me, I'll say, "uh-uh," and Oliver just screams louder. He'll point to me (indicating he wants me to pick him up) and scream until he's hoarse. I'll say, "uh-uh," and even walk away, but it doesn't help. He'll scream himself raw for half an hour. At that point, I don't know what to do. How upset do I let him get? How long do I let him scream and cry for?

I know I'm not supposed to give in to his tantrums. I know I'm not supposed to reward his tantrums. We talked to the doctor about tantrums a little bit at his 12-month well visit, but all she really said was that it's important not to give into tantrums because they'll just escalate and get worse as he gets older.

Andrew tried to talk to some people at work about tantrums. They just basically told him they "wait them out." I guess the message is consistant, but, really, how long can I let my 12-month-old cry and scream for? This morning, I vowed to be strong. Every time he started screaming and crying, I said, "Uh-uh, we don't throw tantrums," and I walked away. He continued to scream and cry. When there was even a 5 second lull in the cries, I'd walk over and say happily, "Are you done?" and reach out to pick him up. He'd start screaming, and so I'd say, "Uh-uh, we don't throw tantrums," and I walked away. This lasted about 30 minutes. I felt like a terrible mother for letting him scream himself hoarse. At this point, his voice was raw, and he was saying, "Mamamamamama." Not knowing what to do, I waited until he paused his crying to breathe, and then I picked him up and soothed him, pretending like his tantrum was over. I said, "Good boy. See, we don't cry."

I'm worried all I did was teach him to get more upset. I don't know. I want to be a good mother to him, and I want to guide him into his childhood years so he can become a little boy who doesn't need to throw a fit to get what he wants, who can communicate effectively, and who can calm himself. However, I also want him to know he's loved and to know his parents will always be there for him.

Oliver throws his tantrums for two reasons. The first is when he can't do something. For example, he threw a tantrum today because he wasn't able to turn the dial on the washing machine. He also threw a tantrum when he couldn't get the lid on perfectly on his toy cookie jar. The second reason he throws tantrums is for me to hold him. For example, this morning, I held him as I brewed coffee and toasted his morning waffle. I held him as I wiped the counter tops and pulled out his high chair. The moment I set him down, though, to change the paper towel roll, he started screaming. When I'm around, he wants to be held all the time. Sometimes, he does this specific thing: I'm holding him, and he "dive-bombs" out of my arms, reaching to the ground. I set him down. He reaches up to me and starts screaming. I pick him up, he stops screaming, and then he tries to dive out of my arms again. It's not logical (I think to myself, "Which is it? Do you want up or down?"), but I know he's 12-months old and isn't a logical person yet. Still, it's frustrating for me when I know there's no solution to that problem.

Have any of you guys had tantrum-throwers? I know some kids throw more tantrums than others (I was a big tantrum thrower as a toddler. My mom would have to close the door, and I'd pull out all the clothes out of my drawers and throw them around the room, screaming, and throw furniture!). I'm really hoping someone out there has advice for a very young tantrum thrower.

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