When I think of writing anything linked to parenting I think of small children. Then I go to make a cup of tea and invariably see an adult-sized child lolloping in the kitchen. And maybe as my eldest turns 18 in a week, I’ve been thinking about whether the way you raise toddlers and teenagers is that different. And one of the things that come to mind about toddlers is tantrums – and how to contain them, or avoid them completely.
Looking back, I was lucky. My children never had terrible twos or threes. I didn’t have to vacate a café or a shop with child tucked under my arm screeching and flailing its arms and legs all over the place.
Public tantrums weren’t an issue for me. My kids are generally quite savvy, saving the trickiest moments for behind closed doors. She won’t thank me, but my daughter (the nearly 18 year old one) excelled at private tantrums. The worst was her extreme OCD for all things symmetrical. Laces on shoes had to tied the same way. The loops and hanging ends must be of the same length and size. Plaits or bunches had to be at the same height on her head or she would pull them out and start crying…I remember flipping between exasperation and just laughing at her.
And the only thing my son did was insisting on going to the supermarket as Spiderman. I found this very hard initially, as I had always vowed pre-children that ‘I would never be one of those mothers’. Well turned out I was… and quite frankly I diverted any potential tantrum and got the shopping done, so anything for a quiet life. And the one thing I have learned is you have to pick your battles.
I do not claim to be an expert on parenting. I’m just a parent. But retaining the balance of power or control is, I think, the way to go, along with never backing down. I used to find this easier the younger my children were. Saying ‘if you do this – that will happen’ was a relative breeze in years 1-7. It got, and continues to get, trickier to stand my ground.
Teenagers, unsurprisingly, are more sophisticated. A teenager’s tantrum arsenal comprises: grumpiness, insolence, rudeness, backchat, the cold shoulder and coming home late. The last one is my least favourite as it fills me with unbelievable worry. Long gone are the days when a child kicks off, I can pick him or her up and put them in their room. My son is 70kgs of muscle, there is no way I am moving him anywhere.
Teenagers are less malleable. And a DVD for half and hour is not going to appease them. So what to do? Teenage tantrums can quickly turn into a heated argument, where you both end up saying something you regret. So I guess whilst as a parent you are so angry inside, the trick is to be calm and clear on the outside. Well that’s the theory anyway. Let me know if you can actually do this!
I guess tantrums are fundamentally about having your own way and who doesn’t want their own way? To be honest, if I could get away with throwing the odd tantrum, I probably would…what about you?