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The Art of the Temper Tantrum

HulkSmashNow that BB is three and half the mini tantrum is a staple of our daily lives. However, the full blown hyper ventilation meltdown is still basically rare. Mostly it manifests itself when being hauled off the playground or leaving a fun event. Inside the house he stores up the big guns for future use and doesn’t really swing for the fences over minor offenses or slights. When he does let loose it can not only be crazy loud but shocking as if you forgot what the last one was like. The other day he had one particularly loud flailing tantrum that went on so long he was forced to sadly admit, he “didn’t know how to stop” after doing some breathing exercises and counting to ten together the madness finally subsided, but it is unclear if the zen practices actually caused the situation to deescalate or if he just literally ran out of steam. Once my headache went away I was relieved to note that the full blown China syndrome meltdown is still relatively rare.

Book Review – 1-2-3 Magic

123magicLike most parenting concepts follow through and consistency are key. These are never more true than when dealing with matters of discipline. The Mommy and I have used 123 Magic in the past but due to factors such as stress, busyness and laziness we have not always held true to the core mission and techniques. LTD is about to turn 7 and is acting like a teenager and BB is now 3 and is deep into his Three-nager phase as well. It was time to return to the manual. The popular 1-2-3 Magic books and accompanying industry are valuable for their simplicity. The real work comes in changing and learning new habits.There are so many many many many books about raising children and heaven help you if you google anything, but you do need a guiding principle to fall back on if you can actually remember to use it. The book deals with start behaior and stop behavior in a clear way as any parent reading will easily recognize the examples. Now in the sixth edition we turned back to it as a reminder that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. We were also reminded that following a discipline pattern is hard work that requires constant upkeep. I hope that the second time through will be the charm and I expect the boys to be perfect angels from now on.

Well Okay You Have My Attention

115254476Here is one of those things that I just knew that LTD would do, I could just tell, but I really thought it would take him about five more years to figure out. A few months ago, I was upstairs and he wanted my attention and instead of yelling daddy he yelled Ben. You can’t help but laugh the first time this happens. He also uses ‘honey’ when trying to get our attention. In his own defense he really only does it after he hears The Mommy or me do it and you can tell he is just trying to be funny. It actually makes me warm inside to know that he is crafting a little joke or building a humor piece to perform on This American Life. He does need to work on his delivery as he can’t say our on daddy or mommy names without bursting out in laughter. Hopefully as he becomes a teenager he will limit his choice of names to call me.

Don’t Make Me Angry, You Won’t Like Me If I Get…Part II

Here is another LTDism that I truly don’t know where it started. It occurs when he is really really mad. Like level ten meltdown mad. For example if you tell him to stop playing with something because it is time to go and you have to actually pick him up or take it away he gets his angry face on and through gritted teeth utters the following, “That’s not nice.” I’m talking he punches every syllable like he is holding a master’s class in overacting. And don’t get me started about what happens if you say it back to him in a sarcastic gesture to try and lighten the mood. On the one hand his signature mad phrase is funny but on the flip side is that our sweet little boy has the ability to get really angry in a seemingly adult way.

Get Me Monkey

I would like to break from the world of LTD for a moment and write about an experience of a friend of ours. More than a few months ago, while visiting her and her son (who is a couple of months older than LTD), we observed something interesting. Her son was either hungry or tired and had a minor temper flare up. She quickly said, do you want monkey? Her little guy nodded in the affirmative, yes please and she handed him a super soft stuffed monkey. At the time of our visit, LTD didn’t really move much and so his temper was pretty much in check, but our friend suggested we get our version of monkey for the future. She felt monkey acted as a sort of security blanket, something that could instantly calm him down. We discussed the pitfalls of relying on such a device and as new parents we both settled on the side of there not being much harm in it at such a young age.

Armed with this new theory of providing LTD a “safe” toy, we choose a super soft Winnie the Pooh and placed said plushy in his crib. We figured it would make a good version of our friend’s monkey and if it ever got lost it would be easy enough to replace, avoiding what I imagine would be the meltdown of the century. However, a strange thing happened while the little guy likes his Pooh he doesn’t love it and it never became his security blanket. Yet, while Pooh lives in the crib to this day, as a lone sentry guarding against threats both foreign and domestic, LTD doesn’t rely on it. Now that he is older the only thing that ends a tantrum is distraction, time or sleep.

The Penalty Box

During our 18 month check up, the doctor asked if I had any questions. I basically had only one, do you have any advice on discipline? He gave a slight chuckle and basically shared a few pieces of advice that he has learned over the years. The plan when dealing with a crazy toddler was pretty simple in theory if not in practice. It is all about distraction, distraction, and distraction. He suggested using the loud sharp, No, only for real scary situations such as when he is about to stick a fork in an electrical outlet. If he is just being mischievous use different warnings because after awhile the No would just become white noise. And if all this should fail to calm the beast? The so-called Time Out works with toddlers in the sense that it takes them out of the action. Of course it is also pretty much a Time Out for you, as you have to make sure they stay in one place. I have found the playpen makes a pretty nice temporary baby jail as most people don’t have access to Alcatraz.

However, the doctor’s most important advice came when we hit upon the subject of the dreaded temper tantrum, the kind that are sprinkled with a mix of kicking and screaming on top. The best tactic is to lose the battle but win the war. The toddler can scream and flip out longer than you can, in other words, you can’t match him at his level. You have to go on defense by excusing yourself to another location and calming yourself down or in his words doing a primal scream into a pillow. Once refreshed and hydrated you are ready to deal with the little guy for round two. So in the end like everything else in life it is important to just breathe.

And Then There Was Light

As distraction has become a constant technique to keep LTD out of trouble, The Mommy and I have sought solutions wherever we find them. The other day the little guy was flipping out nicely on the changing table and I found a flashlight nearby to keep him occupied. For now and until he grows tired of it the flashlight has been a convenient weapon in our arsenal of things that keep the little guy from screaming uncontrollably. One of the reasons the flashlight was close by was that we were using it to look into his mouth when he was sick in order to determine if he was getting molars or had a red throat. The bad news was that we couldn’t really see anything but the good news was that now LTD thinks that the flashlight is a device to say Ahhh into, a behavior that keeps him busy for a little bit.

Lately, he has been using the flashlight more appropriately. He turns it on and off and looks at the spot created on the wall. The only downsides to his new love of flashlights is that he constantly clicks it on and off and the sound can be annoying and sometimes when he is done the constant clicking his last click happens to be in the on position which kills the batteries. His flashlight of choice is a small Energizer given to us by his grandpa. The little light is encased in hard rubber and designed to be rugged for outdoor use with the added benefit being it is LTD proof. I figured someday he would use a flashlight in bed to read comic books while staying up past his bedtime, but I am pleased he has discovered the magic torch at only 20 months.

Speak and Spell 2.0

LTD has become LTD, boy genius as of late. In fact, some days it seems like he is trying to start first grade early. How is he manifesting his intelligence, you ask? He is showing how smart he is by making his parents spell. That’s right folks the little guy hears the words, stop pulling hair or stop screaming and he takes that to mean, I should pull hair and continue screaming maybe even harder and longer. This behavior has forced us to spell things out to each other so that LTD doesn’t hear words like yell. My hunch is that he learned this stuff from the dog who when she hears the word walk runs to the door.

The flip side to these troubling new skills is the hidden cute factor. When the little guy overhears the word “knows” he grabs his nose. If he hears the word “dog” he makes his arf-arf sounds. Does LTD acting cute make up for screaming after I say stop screaming? Sure it does (since I don’t have a choice) sure it does.

Magic Bagel

As long time Beyond the Car Seat readers know thanks to the challenges that result from frequently taking LTD in and out of the car seat I always am happy to find a drive thru. Unfortunately, most of the places that have such a window are limited to fast food chains and the bank. I have seen drive up dry-cleaning but let’s face it with the baby throwing food everywhere I’m not wearing a lot of nice clothes that need to be dry cleaned. However, I have found a special place that has become like an oasis in the desert, ladies and gentlemen I give you Mr. Bagel Express. About once a week I treat myself to a Everything bagel toasted with veggie cream cheese. The people there recognize me and LTD and often throw in a free bagel or donut.

Recently, The Mommy approached me with a suggestion that we all go there to eat in on a Sunday morning. I had never been inside before and figured it would be a place that would tolerate LTD embarrass the parents routine. Something amazing happened at our visit. No, it wasn’t LTD was well behaved cause it was not, but it was the discover of a magic baked good. Mr. Bagel Express makes something accurately named the Rainbow Bagel. This round thing was awesome, we are talking about a bagel that is swirled with color and even though it looks like it is made out of every color of play dough, tastes delicious. There was only one problem with the Rainbow bagel that turned out not to really be a problem. LTD refused to eat it and so The Mommy and me had to polish it off. When LTD is a little older and finds out that he used to spit out the magic bagel he is going to be awfully upset with himself, but for now more for me.

Yeah, Are You Gonna Finish That?

Normally, I have to inhale my lunch over the sink while LTD takes his nap. I never know how long he will be asleep for and have to plan accordingly. However, occasionally, I will eat in front of him. When that happens all hell breaks loose. When eating in front of friends, co- workers or family; you may say, this is good, try a taste or they may say, that looks yummy can I have a bite? Well, LTD has no use for such polite manners. He demands a bite. He lets his desire for your food be known through physical and verbal actions. He points and waves his hand in the direction of the delicious pizza you are about to eat. He screams ‘uh’ over and over and over again until you simply break. Don’t even get me started on what happens if you try and eat Dairy Queen in front of him. The whole scene turns into Lord of the Flies and I get to be that Piggy kid with the glasses. Time for me to go back to eating quickly over the sink.