Monday, October 20, 2014

Terrible Twos, Terrible Tantrums

Prior to the boy's second birthday last spring, friends and family warned Mrs. Blackwell and I of the terrible twos. 

Two, for some reason, is the age when children morph from cute little toddlers into devious, manipulative, tantrum-throwing, patience testers. 

Up until recently we've been fortunate with our perfect little angel. But, after roughly two weeks of what we're currently observing/enduring, I can safely say that the switch has been flipped and the boy is consistently delving into "terrible" territory. 

To wit: at the end of the couch in our family room we have an end table or, as the boy views it, a platform from which to dive onto the couch. Given my generally lax approach to household safety, it should tell you something that I've drawn a line here. 
To him, he's holding free will. To me — and
the rest of the adult world — it's the P.A.
for an entire grocery store.


While clutching his "drum sticks," two objects that usually consist of a small wood baton and a pen, he'll climb atop the end table then jump onto the couch. Without the pen and baton, this isn't the safest act. With them, it's a trip to the ER waiting to happen. 

So, I say "No," and the boy pauses long enough to make eye contact with me. It's a look that says, "Yes, I understand you don't want me to proceed, on the other hand, watch this!" 

Unless of course I can get to him first. In that event, I grab him and firmly say "No. We don't jump," before lifting him up and setting him down. In my eyes it's strong parenting (pats self on back). 

Judging from his response, the boy views this scenario differently. 

It's a reaction we're seeing more and more frequently any time we dissuade or prevent him from asserting any measure of free will. 

If he wants Mrs. Blackwell's phone to play music and/or Angry Birds, he doesn't always get it. If he wants to watch television, he doesn't always get to. If he wants to go outside, he doesn't always get that either. 

Each of these assertions is different but what follows their denial is roughly the same. 

And it proceeds thusly: 

If you're holding the boy when the tantrum hits, he goes completely limp. It's astonishing how a 30-pound kid suddenly weighs twice that amount merely by loosening every muscle in their body. 

So, we set him down and, whether he's been set down or drops to the ground on his own, he begins a dramatic display of bodily contortions, cries, screams, tears, red cheeks and furious anger. 

Tip for a coping mechanism: when your kid throws a fit, hold
a life-size cutout of your face in front of theirs. It hides the
tears and hilarity occasionally ensues.
I'd say it's Academy Award worthy but, really it's not. In fact it's completely unconvincing. Sometimes he'll pause mid-cry, to gauge our reaction, effectively trying to determine if his current course is having the desired effect.  

Usually he fails, though there was at least one occasion in which Mrs. Blackwell and I weren't on the same page and the boy has exploited the information gap to his advantage. 

Long story short, he managed to get a "No" from Mom and a "Yes" from Dad. Naturally, the "Yes" result was an immediate halt to the tantrum. 

Just as naturally, Mrs. Blackwell and I are learning too. The game has changed. It's not all cuteness and baby babble anymore; we know that and, so far, I think we're adjusting accordingly.

That said, we've been told by many folks that the terrible twos don't really take effect until kids are closer to three years old. 

I wonder then, how much better his acting will be. 

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