Tricky temper tantrums

Living

The Dad Diary
Edwin McGreal

THE language used to describe your kids is instructive.
Someone might kindly say your child has ‘leadership skills’. What they mean is they are bossy and love telling people what to do.
Or a child who is stubborn as a mule might be described as showing ‘great independence’.
Because they are getting to know themselves more and more all the time, some of the traits that can be quite challenging now could prove to be very useful assets in their lives to come.
That’s one of the ways we’re trying to look at Éamon’s temper tantrums at the moment. He turned two last September so he’s in the midst of the ‘terrible twos’, when kids can have a tantrum for any reason imaginable.
A lot of it does come down to him trying to be independent/stubborn. Éamon thinks he can hang his coat up on top of doors, buckle his own seat belt (even though it might as well be a Rubik’s cube to bim) and even thinks he can and should change his own nappy.
You try your best to be a step ahead and cut meltdowns off before they even start to simmer, which can be easier said than done. There are some times when nothing you do matters.
I’ll give you an example. Éamon was sitting down for his dinner during the week. There’s a drink of milk on the table for him. He comes over to me saying he wants water. I double check: “Do you want milk or water?”
He thinks about it … “Milk,” he says cheerfully.
“It’s on the table there, Éamon.” Cue a five minute meltdown in which he didn’t want any drink or food.
It is all new to us, as Frankie didn’t suffer from the terrible twos at all. Éamon is more than making up for it.
They can strike at any time.
He wasn’t long up one morning when he slapped Frankie because she took a toy. I told him to say sorry. Cue tantrum.
I was in the mood for persevering. No playing or breakfast until he said sorry, I told him.
Éamon stuck to his guns. Forty minutes passed and I got the sense he could have stuck there all day. Independent, stubborn, defiant, call it what you like.
I eventually made a game of it, exclaiming ‘Three, two, one, sorry’ and that got him smiling and saying it, followed by a big hug for his sister.
The next time he only stubborned it out for ten minutes. It’s the little victories …
I could list countless examples, but as unexpected as the tantrums may be, he shows a heart of gold so much of the time.
One morning after his big sister fell Éamon offered to hug a crying Frankie.
“Leave me alone,” roared his emotional sister. Éamon kept offering, Frankie eventually relented and they hugged. Frankie smiled and then Éamon held out his hand, saying ‘Come on Frankie’ to lead her into the sitting room to play.
But not before Éamon turned around to proudly boast to his parents: ‘I made Frankie happy!’
You gladly suffer the meltdowns when you witness moments like that.

In his fortnightly column, Edwin McGreal charts the ups and downs of the biggest wake-up call of his life: parenthood.