Since my last post on this subject, the whining and tantrums have hit an all time high. Or should that be an all time low? All I know for sure, is that the constant whining and daily tantrums from my first-born are rapidly driving me to the nut-house. I have tried the calm-voice-approach. I have tried shouting-like-a-mad-woman. I have tried ignoring. I have tried smothering-with-love. I have sent him to the
naughty thinking corner. I have tried distracting him with other activities. I have given him a firm talking to. I have given him the odd tap on the bottom. I have told him to speak in his normal / nice voice, told him that I am not listening when he speaks in his whiny voice. I have walked away from him and told him that he can only come and find me when he has stopped whining / crying. I have asked him why he is upset / what is bothering him etc. etc. etc.
But still the whining continues.
And the latest addition: (not so) delightful screaming / hysterical crying at the top of his lungs if he doesn’t get his own way.
Case number one: The other morning, he wanted to wear shoes to school that are too small for him (mental note: next time the shoes are too small, dispose of them immediately!) So I explained that the shoes are too small, and that he should rather wear more comfortable ones, and then he would be able run and play without his shoes hurting him. Well, you would have sworn I had just offered to cut one of his legs off based on the crying fit that ensued. Eventually I put him in the car, crying hysterically (sans shoes), drove to school with the radio blaring and Alex still sobbing. About five minutes away from the school, I managed to drag it out of him that the reason he wanted to wear those specific shoes, was because they have lights in. OH MY GOD! So, I made a deal with him to get him some more shoes with lights in. As luck would have it, nobody has those shoes in stock in his size anymore, so he has worn shoes that are too small for him to school every day for the last week, because I cannot bear a repeat performance every morning.
Case number two: We stop at the Woolies garage to get bread and milk. He asks me if he can please have a chocolate gold coin (they had some extra-large ones on display for father’s day), so I said ok and bought him one. While he was carrying it, he dropped it, and of course the chocolate inside the gold casing broke in half. Later, back in the car, he asks me to open the coin, which I do. He then notices that it is broken in half, and melts down into hysterical crying. So I tell him it will still taste the same, that it would break anyway when he bites it, etc, and all that does is make him cry more. WTF!!! The sobbing continued for a good while after we got home, where Promise finally managed to calm him down by
dragging taking him outside to kick a ball.
And I have many more examples just like these. Just this morning, in fact, another crying fit ensued because he wanted to wear his slippers to school, and refused to put on a jersey. It was eight degrees outside when we left the house. And as much as I get the statement “don’t sweat the small stuff” I could not in good conscience let my child freeze all day because he is freaking out about wearing a jacket.
One minute he will be playing nicely with his sister, and the next he will freak out because she has picked up a toy that he hasn’t played with in ages, and grab it out of her hand, making her cry. Which makes me angry, so I reprimand him, which starts the hysterical crying.
I am feeling like a pretty bad mother at this point, the whining is one thing, but the hysterical crying every time he doesn’t get his own way is so exhausting. I have had discussions with other moms of three-going-on-four year olds, and they recite similar stories, but I can’t help but wonder if this is all normal. Am I so bad at this parenting thing? For the most part, he is a happy well-adjusted child. He speaks very well for his age, so the tantrums are not necessarily based on an inability to communicate. His teacher says that he is happy at school and never has tantrums or upsets during the school-day. And that he is in fact a model-pupil. (I had to resist the urge to say “are you sure you are talking about MY Alex??”) So to add to my delight, it is always me that he throws his hissy-fits with, no-one else. I am aware that this behaviour is age-appropriate, but all the suggested methods of dealing with this stage just don’t work. I realise that this revolting behaviour is an attempt to get more attention, but it is not like he doesn’t get any, in fact, I go out of my way to make sure I spend alone time with him since his sister was born.
So I did a bit of googling on the subject, as one does, and came up with the following advice on how to handle tantrums, that really made me laugh out loud. (I don’t remember the website as I cut and pasted it in an email to myself)
If tantrums persist even with the use of timeout, ask yourself if there are other stresses in the home. Issues of illness, marital violence or discord, alcohol or drug abuse in caregivers all can affect parenting and child behaviour. You may also want to check your child’s hearing. Many children at this age have had a number of recurring ear infections (otitis media). With each re-occurrence of an ear infection, fluid remains in the ear and diminishes hearing capacity. They will grow out of it, but in the meantime, your child may actually be hard of hearing and as a result, language delayed. Therefore even though a little older, they may not hear you or understand your verbal commands. This is something you should check out with your pediatrician.
If all the above fails, fear not, but do ask for help. Call a local parenting center, a counsellor or social worker or even your family doctor. Odds are something is going on that probably because you are so close to the problem, you do not see. If ever you feel like spanking your child, then give yourself a break to stop yourself. Have a cup of herbal tea, warm milk, a hot bath, or go for a walk. Do anything that works to give you a little distance and a chance to collect your thoughts. Just be sure your child is appropriately supervised while you grab a moment alone. Sometimes this “parental pause” is just the ticket to regain composure and re-enter more effectively.
Lastly, you can’t offer too much praise, love and affection to a child. Give generously throughout the day!
Ok, so last time I checked, there weren’t any issues of illness, marital violence or discord, alcohol or drug abuse in caregivers. And he seems happy at school, so I am assuming there is no problem there. So we can rule that one out. And I think if I were to phone our family doctor, he would laugh at me, and say “Get a grip. Welcome to having a three-year old”.
As for checking his hearing, if he can hear me whisper “would you like an ice-cream” and answer me with a resounding “YES”, I have to assume there is nothing wrong his hearing, but rather listening to me is where the issue seems to lie. I have even considered scheduling a session with a play-therapist to see if there is an underlying problem.
The whole tone of this article smacks of something straight out of an episode of Barney. Self-righteous and syrupy sweet. But it did make me laugh. Especially the closing lines “If ever you feel like spanking your child, then give yourself a break to stop yourself. Have a cup of herbal tea, warm milk, a hot bath, or go for a walk. Do anything that works to give you a little distance and a chance to collect your thoughts. Just be sure your child is appropriately supervised while you grab a moment alone. Sometimes this “parental pause” is just the ticket to regain composure and reenter more effectively.” Hardly do-able during “suicide hour” when it’s just me and the kids and we are having yet another battle because he won’t eat his supper. Do dogs count as appropriate supervision so that I can have an adult time-out? Only kidding.
I give myself daily pep-talks that this is just a phase, and that it will be over before I know it, but man, it is exhausting. I try to see the funny side of all the erratic behaviour. I am sure that I will look back at these times with fondness when he is older and not wanting my attention at all. (Ok, maybe not fondness exactly.) In the mean time I will continue to develop my sense of humour. And maybe today I will buy some good quality ear-plugs!