Posted by: Paul | November 14, 2010


Adam’s normally pretty well behaved. But, like even the most angelic toddlers, he has his moments when something sets him off and he mutates into a crying, screaming, hitting, foot-stomping little monster.

This morning is a case in point. Mummy’s out at the gym, and Adam and Daddy are watching the rest of Wall-E (we didn’t make it through the entire thing yesterday). Adam is idly playing with some stickers at the same time – we have some sheets of small green and red circles which were intended for use on some kind of reward chart we haven’t made yet. He has a sheet of the green ones, and one by one he peels them off and sticks them on his jumper. When he’s almost run out, he discards the rest and asks me for a sheet of red ones. By this point there are stickers everywhere – in his hair, on his face, all over the sofa and carpet.

I tell him no, he’s had enough, and besides there are a few green ones still left. This denial sparks demanding behaviour which, not being acceeded to, becomes a full-blown tantrum. He cries, he shouts, he screams in my face when I stoop down to attempt to calm him down. He really, really wants those stickers.

It would be very easy to give in at this point – after all, it’s just a sheet of stickers – but I feel that just letting him have whatever he wants will set a precedent in other situations. He needs to learn that (a) he can’t always have his own way, and (b) this kind of behaviour does not get rewarded. Being polite is far more likely to get you what you want. Simple life lessons which will hopefully rub off!

Anyway, the calm and measured approach has no effect – the screaming carries on. At this point I decide it’s time for a time out, and take him up to his room, where I leave him for a couple of minutes. I know from past experience that he’s got to the point now where he is now caught up in the self-feeding cycle of hysterical crying, and if I give him a couple of minutes alone he will have forgotten what it is he’s crying about and it will be easier to calm him down.

And so it proves. I listen from downstairs and the screaming abates, turning into regular crying after about two minutes (the golden rule being give them a minute for each year of their age – as a rule of thumb I find it quite useful). I go back upstairs and, sure enough, he flops into my lap, a snotty, sobbing mess, telling me he’s sorry. After a minute of cuddles he’s ready to go back downstairs, where we pick out a book and have a bit of quiet time, the antidote to the tantrum, and it’s all forgotten.

Well that’s my method, anyway. After 10 months of part time childcare I feel like I’m getting the hang of situations like this, which used to frustrate me no end. But I quickly realised that if you get upset with them while they’re upset you’re just feeding the situation – it’s hard to keep your cool sometimes, but it’s the shortest route to resolution. I’m far from a perfect father, but like any job worth doing, I give it my best shot.


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