The Undefeatable Tantrums



There is domestic violence in this household. On a daily basis I am slapped, kicked, pinched, and sometimes have to curl up into a foetal position where I rock quietly, crying, and whisper to myself, “I’m in my bubble…I’m in my bubble…”

But the fact this violence is perpetrated by a 1-year-old, I suspect means that refuge shelters wouldn’t be inclined to take me on and not tell Timmy the secret address I’m stowed at. (Don’t be fooled by his face in that photo. That’s not sadness. That’s fury.)

I don’t know why it’s happening. He’d seemed to have finally accepted another child living in the house.

And I don’t know how to stop it. The ‘prevention method’ of frequent one-on-one attention doesn’t actually prevent it. Giving him ‘time out’, doesn’t make a difference. Neither do instructions of ‘No!’ or ‘Stop!’. Neither do explanations of ‘That hurts Mummy,’ or ‘Timmy needs to use gentle hands.’ (Whoever decided reasoning was a valid approach to use with a 1-year-old clearly hasn’t met one.) Raising my voice, or lowering it to a creepy whisper, have no effect. In fact, any response that involves speaking to Timmy will be unlikely to make a difference, purely because he won’t hear it — the likelihood is that he’s screaming like a banshee at the time.

His violence is not always reserved for tantrums. Sometimes he’ll be completely calm as he smacks and pinches. Little sociopath. His facial expression won’t even change. I’ll be holding him when I become aware of a growing pain on my arm or neck…and then discover Timmy’s fingers are applying increasing pressure to my captive flesh. (When I discover this and put him down, that’s when the noise starts.)

Even behind the ‘typical behaviours’ of his age, he has a very determined personality. Politically correct terms are ‘spirited’ and ‘strong-willed.’ Colloquial terms are many and varying (and probably not suitable for public blog posts).

I have no idea how to parent such a personality. I’m wimpy. And introverted. And quiet. I’m everything Timmy’s not. But I can’t change his personality. (Nor do I wish to. Because Husband has a similar disposition to me, I’m relying on Timmy to be the family spokesman, later. He’ll handle the telemarketers. And the door-knockers asking us to give regular donations to a particular charity, which I hate saying ‘No’ to because it makes me feel like a meanie, even though we do give regular donations to charity — just not every charity out there, but how could anyone be expected to…? Anyway, I digress.)

I’m working my way through a book titled, ‘Parenting the Strong-Willed Child.’ It’s taking me a while to make much of a dent in it at all, because I’m frequently interrupted by my strong-willed child.

I’ve made two experimental differences so far, to my own behaviour. One of them I didn’t get from the book, but it seemed like an experiment-worthy move: Whenever Timmy is out of bed, my computer is to be off. (I later relaxed this rule when I learned that cost me background music, too. Now I just won’t allow myself to sit at it.) Normally I’m umbilically connected to my iMac, so my attention is divided between my digital preoccupation and everything else.

The other experimental change is the first step suggested by the book: ‘Attending.’ A pretentious and ambiguous label, essentially it’s just changing what I say to Timmy from sensible dialogue to idiotic narration.

Almost everything I say to Timmy is either a reprimand, instruction, or question. This ‘Attending’ approach tells me to simply narrate what he’s doing, in my talk with him. ‘You’re making a tower,’ then, ‘Oh, it fell down’. It makes me feel ridiculous, but I’m not in a position to sniff at solutions I haven’t tried.

Today is Day Two of the new experimentations of limited computer activity and narration for the blind. Oh, and I’m also trying to smile at him more. (I have Bitchy Resting Face, in my relaxed state. This forced smiling makes me feel like I’m at a perpetual job interview.)

It’s too early to tell how helpful it’s been. Two days don’t make a pattern. They make two days. But I think it’s been positive…maybe. Timmy still has violent outbursts for no apparent reason, but they don’t seem as passionate, or don’t last as long. Of course, this may just indicate a difference in my perception — when I’m not constantly being pulled from my computer tasks, I’m not resentful and irritable from fragmented concentration and attention-switching. And a couple of times when we’ve been in a face-off where it looked like Timmy was about to tantrum, I stuck a forced smile on…and after a moment’s pause, he smiled back and toddled off to play with his toys.

Unfortunately for me, this experiment is crazy hard work, and I’m at astronomical levels of bored. Even if it works (Skeptical Me thinks that’s a big ‘if’), I’m not sure how long I can keep this up!

I feel bad for Daniel. He’s such a good, quiet, compliant baby, but still gets a frazzled shell of a mother whose favourite time of day is whenever she can’t hear her children.



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