My five year old has been driving me around the bend. It’s a phase. I hope. One that I hope ends soon. Please, god, let it be a phase. I’m about 2 inches from being crazy, bug-eyed Charlie Sheen.
I asked one of my teacher friends for advice. He teaches young ones. He has two of his own. If he’s not the expert on solving bad attitudes, then we’re all screwed.
Sure enough, his eldest son had been a complete P.I.T.A. at exactly the same age.
“I told him he was David 2,” he explained to me. At my blank stare, he elaborated:
We were all in the car, and David was being the absolute worst brat you can imagine. So I told him, ‘You know, you’re not the oldest kid. There was another. You’re actually the second kid we had and named David. Before you, there was David 1.’
I had his complete attention after that. ‘What happened to David 1?’ he asked me.
I told him, ‘One night, much like you, David 1 was being a really bad boy in the car. He was being so bad while Daddy was trying to drive that I pulled off to the side of the road and left him to be eaten by dingos. So you should be good, because I could always leave you for the dingos and make another David. That part is easy. And then I’ll name him David 3.’
‘No, daddy no! I don’t want to be eaten by the dingos!’ And he was pretty good after that. For a while, anyway.
Through my slightly guilty belly laughter, I couldn’t decide if this is the most horrible thing I had ever heard, or the most genius. Given that I had been dealing with raging temper tantrums the whole previous week, I was leaning towards the latter.
Objectively speaking, it’s astonishing what sheer levels of fiery rage that a puny human-spawn can kick out.
If you’re a DINK, (or even a SINK), I beg you to extend one little crumb of compassion for the parent. As annoying as you find listening to the kid having a temper tantrum for five minutes, trust us, we’ve probably heard it for an hour today already, there’s every chance we heard it for about three hours yesterday, and you can bet your ass that we’ll be hearing it again soon.
We are not thinking that our screaming kids are sweet little angels. We’re not ignoring them, either. We’re busy counting to 1000 in our heads, trying not to give into the urge to jump in front of traffic. Sometimes we are unable to to pull the eject lever and take said child in full nuclear meltdown out of the store because we are in the checkout line and we really need these groceries.
You DINKS should be thanking me. Doing anything but ignoring him in front of an audience is only going to make him scream louder. But you know, if you really want the screaming banshee to stop, more often than not your (polite) intervention will stop him in his tracks. You’re not the parent. It’s a proven* fact that 97% of the time, a screaming kid will listen to anybody who isn’t mom or dad.
You don’t think they think they get away with this kind of murder at school, do you? I’ve seen it with my own eyes. It almost never even happens. True story. Kids know at an instinctual level that mom and dad are obligated to keep them.
You? They don’t know that you may or may not feed them to dingos. They’re going to watch their step.
The core of most temper tantrums (at least the ones that aren’t ignited by extreme fatigue or hunger) is a power struggle with the parents. So the only thing we can do is stay the course, and weather the storm by not giving in on the all-important MacGuffin that sparked the whole fiasco in the first place.
There comes a point where parents feel like nothing works. We’ve tried time-outs. We’ve tried spanking, threatening, cajoling, rewarding and punishing. We’ve tried reasoning, which only results in the realization that five year olds in mid temper tantrum are impervious to logic. We’ve even tried guilting them by saying that they’re emptying our buckets, to which, if you have a kid like mine, you get a surly, “THE BUCKET ISN’T REAL!” in response. Kids are like highly-adaptable Borg drones. So you have to keep rotating your vocal frequency, hoping that something is going to penetrate their shields and shut them down.
If that wasn’t bad enough, now imagine you’re like some of us, and have a mother in law from hell.
My MIL and I have gone head to head before over discipline because when everything else fails I’ll put him in a room and let him have his temper tantrum where he won’t bother others. She, on the other hand, feels that this is unnecessarily cruel. My kid was full spate during an extended-family BBQ, and after I left him in a room, I got a snarky, “I bet I can calm him down.”
She left, there was silence from upstairs, and when she returned to the backyard, I was treated with a scathing “you’re-an-idiot” glance and she topped it off by ignoring me afterwards. After I finished counting to three thousand, I went inside to find out what happened, and discovered that she indeed shut him up… by telling him he didn’t have to eat his vegetables and could eat inside while watching television. Bad for so many reasons, not least of which was leaving a young kid unsupervised with a hot dog (the shmeat device that kills about 77 kids annually and sends 10,000 more to the ER every year after choking on them).
Today there was screaming over washing ketchup off his face, my refusing to buy a case of Five Alive, my shutting the bathroom door for privacy (seriously, wtf??), and me putting him in the car when his gloves weren’t on after he insisted he wasn’t going to wear them. Tomorrow, it’ll be a whole new adventure in Crazy Town.
Yay, can’t wait.
I’m in dire straits. There’s 346 days till Christmas again, and I no longer have the threat of coal in his stocking to keep him in check. I never thought I’d get to the point where I’d actually mourn the loss of those fucking ad nauseum carols in January. Dear Santa, please hurry back. Mommy needs a new liver for Christmas.
Tonight, it’s my turn to read the bedtime story. It might just feature raging little Johnny being left on the side of the 401 to be eaten by some great Canadian snow lions and mommy will afterward engage in the horizontal mambo with daddy to start production on Johnny number 2. And they all live happily ever after.