I am often told that it’s not babysitting if it’s your own offspring. Apparently, it is called parenting. Temper tantrums make me wonder, though.
Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with the term parenting, especially when I’m out-and-about with my little cherubs. But doubt sets in when my kids flick a temper tantrum switch and become someone else.
Some days I’m not even sure my kids are really my kids. It’s either that, or they are harbouring more personality states than Sybil. I know what that sounds like, but let me explain:
My little wonderchild would wake up, bat her eyes to clear the sleep away, do a potty trip, play in the living room for ten minutes, then: Bam! She flicks a switch and becomes another person. Tantrum deluxe.
She rolls around on the floor crying, screaming, coughing, kicking, and semi-delirious. She sets off the other kids and soon there is a chorus of melancholy ripping down the streets. Neighbours lean out the windows to see what’s happening.
At this point, I just freeze and behold the spectacle of toddler norm. I really want to ask the child: “Who the hell is your Daddy? Because, right now, you are not my child.”
Modern dads like to get their hands dirty (pardon the pun), and proudly offer to take the little ones for a bit of solo-time. Daddies still freeze up when that tantrum phase shakes the household, rocks the car on the way to school, spurs on an argument between mommy and daddy, forces the church sermon to a halt, or brings the entire shopping mall to a standstill over a missing toy. When it happens while they are in your custody, then parenting becomes babysitting in a flash.
So, what’s the deal with this personality switch? And, more importantly, how do you deal with it?
Between the age of 18 months to 30 months, a child develops their own Categorical Self. In layman’s terms (that is, you and me terms), your toddler is starting to view themselves in “this or that” labels.
With the onset of long-term memory, they awaken a Remembered Self, which is like their frame of reference on a personal level. This leads to deeper thoughts and feelings, and this forms part of the Inner Self.
Phew! A lot of high-psy phrases, I know. But it’s important to come to terms with these developmental phases at some point. The hard reality is, your child is finding himself, and you have to let him.
While this causes doubt about your involvement in the making of that little monster, the way you react or respond, could have a profound effect on your child.
At this point of the article, you normally get a list of bulleted points to help you through this difficult patch. So here it is:
Patience, Patience, Patience!
That’s right, a singular emboldened heading. When your kid flicks the switch, this is how you deal with it. I’m afraid there’s no other way around it.
No quick fix, no medication and no instant result. Until they are about 36 months old, this will have to be your daily mantra. Every possible advice available on the Internet, all comes back to this one word: patience.
Tantrums come and tantrums go, but you can’t go. They are still your kids, so you must stick around. The before daddy and the after daddy, should be the same daddy. Get some popcorn and wait out the performance.
You are only required to be calm and collected. More importantly, you should be consistent. Your patience will determine the duration and the incredulity of your child’s tantrum.
If all else fails, remove the child from the current environment to a more neutral environment where you can ride out the storm.
James Fouche is an author, travel writer, entrepreneur and silly daddy of three. He also writes about parenting and wine, whenever his kids allow him to.