Being a kid sucks. But kids don’t keep that a secret. They let it out for all to hear.
Don’t allow your kids to read this post. Once they know we’re onto them, they’ll press the big red button and take over the world!
If there’s one thing children love, it’s inconsistency. Whatever the rules were one week, you can guarantee they will change by the next. I hypothesise that it’s an elaborate plot to keep us confused and in their power. And this applies to tantrums too. Familiarity breeds contempt and all that, so kids like to mix it up. But fret not! Having conducted extensive research over a period of years, I have managed to isolate the five main tantrum techniques. Read on, become informed and for God’s sake, protect yourselves!
1. The Flop
The Flop is a multi-purpose technique, that can appear at any age and lasts right through toddlerhood. You know the routine. You’re in the supermarket, and you have precisely one hour to get your shopping and get back for the school pick-up/medical appointment/whatever. This method works best if you have an inflexible commitment immediately afterwards.
You don’t need much, so you just grab a basket. Toddler is getting so good at holding hands, you think, I’ll just let him walk. Silly, silly, silly. You can’t see me right now, but I’m shaking my head. It’s all going well until you reach the toy section. You try to distract Toddler past it, but he’s not daft. And he makes a beeline straight for it. You try your best to persuade him away.
“Come on darling, let’s go pick some grapes!” No dice. Then you check to see if anyone’s listening, bend down and hiss through gritted teeth, “Come on, we have to go!” You’re going to be late. So you skip the verbal palaver and grasp Toddler’s little hand, leading him away from the brightly-coloured goodies. And that is when it happens.
All of a sudden, your child apparently has no bones in his body. You have a completely slack mass hanging off the end of your arm and man, toddlers are heavy. You have no choice but to start walking and drag him with you, in the hope that soon his feet will miraculously comply. And dudes, everyone judges dragging. Especially in the supermarket.
2. The Quiver
It’s short and sweet, this one. You may see it in a older child in an extreme situation, but the Quiver is mostly reserved for the very small folk.
The world is confusing when you view it through a forest of adult legs. Ask any toddler. They will reply with, “I don’ know,” or “Bucket,” but what they really mean is, “True dat, bro.”
Adults do inexplicable things. I mean, what’s wrong with eating an apple that has fallen in a puddle? And why exactly can’t you wear a colander on your head for bed? This. shit. makes no sense. At all.
But you know, sometimes the situation just doesn’t merit a full-blown tantrum. It doesn’t warrant a Flop. But even so, grown ups are getting above themselves all the time! A toddler can’t let it slide just because they’re feeling a little tired, or because the Smurfs is on.
So let’s set the scene. You tell your toddler to take off the colander. You’re using the sweet sing-songy voice, but it doesn’t matter. Toddler yells, NO!” You repeat. Toddler applies death grip to colander and shakes her head.
So you try again, because you’re persistent, if a little misguided. This time you have progressed to the song-singy voice, which is similar to the sing-songy voice but with ominous overtones.
Boom! It’s Quiver time! Toddler senses that you are not really catching on. So she keeps it simple. The hands release the colander. Are you winning? The hands clench into tiny fists of rage. Uh oh! Toddler opens her mouth and hell falls out. And hell sounds like growl-screaming. (You know, growl-screaming. Is there even a word for growl-screaming?) But that’s not even it. Toddler somehow begins to vibrate. It starts with the arms, and rapidly spreads until it covers the entire body. Her hair is jiggling. She is probably red-faced, although purple has happened in the past.
Yes, your toddler is so pissed off with your dumbass suggestions that she is actually shaking with rage.
It is loud and it is short, but it sure does let you know who’s boss.
Hint: It isn’t you.
3. The Plank
The plank is a useful technique which can be used either on the floor or in arms. We all know it. Your small child doesn’t want to do whatever you need them to do. As if that is something new! But of course, you have all the power. You are big, and you can just take them where you want them to go, right?
The child engages the Joint-Lock mechanism. The arms go up, the legs stretch out, and suddenly you’re holding some kind of slippery reptile. With no bendy bits, your toddler simply slides down the side of your body. And you can try and keep hold if you like. Swap them to the other arm, hoik them up higher. But resistance is futile! For you, anyway.
And I’m sure you’ve all seen the tantrumming child lying face down on the floor. Go on, you just go right ahead and pick them up. No? One more try? Yep, definitely not happening.
4. The Flounce
The Flounce is predominantly the realm of the older child, who thinks they have already reached teenagerdom. Required skills: eye rolling, sighing, throwing, door slamming. I’m sure you can tell that this is one of the more complex techniques.
I should get Big Girl to explain this really, because it is her favourite. On the other hand, bringing it up would probably cause her to Flounce. Guess I’d better go for it then.
There is one rule and one rule only to remember when parenting the older child; never contradict. Don’t tell them they did something wrong and never ever ever disagree with something they’ve said. Or this will happen:
It commences with a sigh. Then, the child assumes the Teenage position. Shoulders hunched, arms slack, neck loose so head can loll. Next comes The Eye Roll. If you have trained your child well, they will now begin to comply with your instruction. But they are not happy about it. Stamping is optional, but preferable.
Now, it may seem like it’s going ok. Yeah, they’re not happy, but they’re doing it. Parent wins? No. No no no no no. Unless you’re not me, in which case you may be able to resist what I always do next.
I don’t mean to. Acknowledge the action, ignore the attitude. That is the key. But next I find myself opening my mouth. I try to claw back the words before they are even spoken, but it’s too late. I, dear readers, repeat the reason why what she did was wrong. And that is all it takes. The child searches for a toy, any toy, and turns it into an airborne missile. Hopefully it misses the other children. Then comes the climax of the Flounce. The exit. The door handle is grasped firmly, for nothing, as we all know, is worse than a Door Slam Fail.
Why didn’t I just keep quiet? Why? I ask myself this question more times in a day than I care to remember. For now I have just prolonged the whole situation. What could have been resolved in a few short seconds becomes the Christmas episode of a soap opera.
5. The Swoon
The Swoon is another than works best if you are older. If you’re small, it’s all too easy to be distracted away from your position. And that would cause a loss of face, not to mention sleepless nights tinged with regret.
It is all about one thing: complete sensory detachment. Nothing says “I don’t care what you say” than a well-timed Swoon.
Do you remember when you were a kid, and one of your parents refused a perfectly reasonable request? You were baffled, because you could not think of one single reason why it wasn’t a good idea. It could have been cake for breakfast, a water fight in December, or any number of other things.
Now you’re an adult, and it makes perfect sense. And now you repeat the cycle with your own kids.
Let me enlighten you. To achieve an optimal Swoon, all that is required is a supportive couch or bed. It’s not essential, exactly, But what does a child achieve if tantrumming causes actual pain?
So, child makes request. Adult denies request.Child begged, pleads, whines, cajoles. Denied, denied, denied. How unreasonable! Child must teach adult a lesson. And the best way for an adult to learn, according to the children’s research, is to simply make it impossible for them to communicate with you.
Child begins to walk towards the couch, slowly at first and then picking up speed. When he reaches the couch, he simply allows his body to slacken, and faceplants directly onto the cushions. And that is that. He will remain there for as long as he can stand the oxygen deprivation.
Maybe I’m an amateur at this. Maybe you can get your child to respond to you post-Swoon. If you can, please tell me HOW!
In conclusion, you lose. And if you remember that at every step of your parenting journey, you’ll feel a lot better.