Wesley is my first child to ever throw an honest-to-god tantrum. Ones that involve hitting and screaming and kicking. The first time he did it I laughed because I had never seen such behavior in my other kids.
Suffice it to say: I’m not laughing anymore.
It’s a new world that I’m in, and I’ve been navigating the waters with lots of counseling from places like autism blogs, parenting forums, and the local bar.
(You’d be amazed how many frazzled Moms show up there after their kids go to bed.)
Lately – the best “solution” I’ve come up with when Wes dives into a fit is to simply wrap my arms and legs around him until he calms down. It rarely takes more than 10 seconds – as compared to the hours it might take otherwise. This technique has helped a lot more than the previous lock him in his room and try to ignore him because he would just scream and kick and I’d have to keep revisiting him in the room reminding him I was waiting for him to calm down.
Basically? He never calmed down. He just fell asleep. Or got hungry. Or bored. And by that point? He couldn’t even remember why he had originally pitched the fit so learning a lesson was out of the question.
So, lately we make a lot more progress with talking about our problems if we can get him to calm down. After that, lately I’ve been working on two different concepts with him.
1) If we are angry we don’t hit, punch, kick, or yell. We try to calm down by taking deep breaths. I even encourage him to leave the situation but we don’t hit.
2) When we are given a punishment, we have to accept it. We can’t pitch fits or the punishment gets worse.
These are the two simple “rules” we’ve been working on a lot lately as his anger (often at being punished) is what drives his tantrums.
OKAY. That’s where we’re at. Now, for this week’s nightmare parenting story.
Nikki had a Christmas program at her school last night. It was a long program in a packed cafeteria and Wes couldn’t really see a lot of what was going on. After Nikki did her part I tried to keep him entertained but he was bored and tired and I had to threaten to take him out to the van if he didn’t behave.
SPOILER ALERT: He didn’t behave.
The second I announced we were leaving? The fit hit the shan. I picked him up to carry him to the van and he fought me. He tried to push himself out of my arms (which would have ended with him on the floor with a cracked skull, I’m certain) and when he couldn’t get free, he started beating me and screaming.
All while I was trying to leave a cafeteria where my family and friends could see our wonderful display of parenting/child bonding.
As we were leaving, Santa was entering which upset Wes even more. He’s screaming, “I WANT TO SEE SANTA!” while he’s hitting me and I’m thinking Dude. HE’S RIGHT THERE. Aren’t you worried at all about what he’ll think of this?
(He was not.)
We made it outside and it was pouring rain and I remembered I didn’t park the car, Donnie did. (And in my head I screamed 14 million profanities.) I had to call him while trying to hold Wes down because he was trying to run back into the school. I found out where the car was and I carried him (IN THE RAIN) to the van while he fought and screamed the entire way. He almost made it out of my arms (and onto the concrete) twice. I got to the van and he tried to escape and run away. I had to hold him down while I found the child-safety lock on the door. Finally, he was “contained” and I could take a few deep breaths.
Funnily – he buckled himself in his carseat. I guess out of habit, but that worked for me because it helped with the containment. He was screaming/crying for “Another chance!” and “I’m Sorry! GIVE ME ANOTHER CHANCE!” while I sat in the front seat taking very deep breaths trying to sort out my brain and get to a point where I could talk to the kid who just punched me and kicked me.
I decided to film the talk. I needed something to force me to stay calm and not yell or get upset. I decided filming would be like giving me an audience so I would have to keep my shit together. I thought I’d share it with you guys because I know we’ve all commiserated on our tantrum-having children. Enjoy.
LAST MINUTE CAVEAT: Please do not offer any advice about handling these situations. This system is actually working for us right now and I’m really sensitive about my parenting skills. I may take any advice as a personal insult, even if it’s not intended to be one. This is simply a video to share our situation as I’ve been grateful before to see similar videos from other parents.
Notice first? How strained my voice is. I don’t know if you can tell but I can tell when I first start talking that I’m almost in tears. Also notice around 1:27 he unbuckles himself, I can tell he’s about to lose it but since he had already calmed down a bit, he didn’t push another escape.
I don’t know if I got through to him at all, but we went over our lessons and I didn’t flog him. So, you know, I’ll call it a win.