Temper, temper: Defusing the worst of the twos
It is a hard-fought title, but Monroe wins. At age two, he's clearly risen above the bar previously set quite high by his now-seven-year-old brother, Everett. Oh, I have seen bad temper tantrums. But never quite like this.
Twenty minutes ago, his dad and big brother drove off in great-great-uncle's car to help the in-laws move. He wanted to go with them, and the answer was a non-negotiable "no." In a few seconds he went from the happiest smiliest toddler in the back seat of a car (where he'd hopefully climbed to hang out with his most beloved big brother) to a screaming, kicking, destructive ball of mad. Before I could grab him, he tore up a couple of handfuls of clover (thankfully, easier to pull than the pumpkin and watermelon vines a few inches away). He screamed. He stomped on the strawberry plants. He looked at me. "NO, NO, NOOOOOO!" was all he could say.
I have a strategy now, which is mostly to talk calmly with him (not that he can hear anything I say over his screams) and, as gently as possible, hold his arms against his body so he can't hit me (he's hurt me plenty of times) or grab anything to throw in anger. It's hard to hold a screaming child for that long, and it's also hard to watch the stares of passers-by, so I brought him inside after five minutes. Distracting him doesn't work. Sometimes, I can get him to nurse away the mads: not this time. I brought him in and he wiggled away from me, to scream and kick for the next 15 minutes on the floor between the couch and the wall. I tried a favorite toy. I tried to offer him a pillow. No dice.
I went to my computer to wait it out, when the friend who helps with our yard came in. "I can't work with all this screaming!" he said. "Can I try?" "Good luck," I said resignedly. I'd tried everything I could imagine.
Monroe calmed down almost immediately, tearfully going outside to walk around the block with Matt. I guess it was just me to whom he was responding with such frantic anger. But... I won't always have another adult to intervene. Prevention is great, but today (and many times, I'm sure, in the future) I had no idea the temptation of a car would intersect with his big-brother-and-calming-influence leaving. When you're faced with unavoidable tantrum-stimulating situations, how do you disconnect the child from his anger? How do you cope? How do you get other children to stay out of the fray? (Truman always picks these times to decide he's "frustrated" with Monroe's proximity to the wall, or something.) And long-term strategies would be nice, too: how do you teach a two-year-old barely verbal child to calm himself when his anger carries him away?