Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Temper temper

Zeke is starting to show more personality these days. More individuality, to be more precise. A distinct preference for certain things over others, a certain cheekiness as he learns and understands the meaning of the word "no," but is determined to test the limits of its power over him.

It is fascinating to observe, from a human development perspective, but also terrifying, from a parenting perspective.

Because for the first time in his young life, our wills are beginning to clash, and the force of his reaction when he doesn't get what he wants has been a bit horrifying. Up to now, he has been malleable -- a generally agreeable quasi-person who was subject to my will and who didn't fuss much unless he was hungry or tired or uncomfortable. Fussing was a way of communication, really, so it was an essential part of his existence because it was the only way he could tell me when he really needed to be fed or when he was ready for a nap or when his mouth hurt from teething.

And then he discovered the button to turn the TV on and off. And apparently, buttons are fun! Pushing buttons -- yay!! And he discovered playing in the toilet -- whee!! Fun for dropping things, like mommy's new cell phone, into the water.

But I'm no dummy. I watch Nanny 911. I know that one of the keys to good parenting (other than showering your kid with love and affection) is maintaining a calm and consistent firmness. Neither Jason nor I ever yell at him (or even around him) or are harsh with him. When he's melting down at night and it's clear he's exhausted and needs to go to bed, I put him in his crib, give him a kiss, tell him I love him and say, "it's time for night-night, baby." And generally, as soon as I leave the room, he stops crying, lies down, and goes to sleep.

But the button thing apparently has a powerful lure, as does the toilet. When I see him head toward the bathroom, I walk quickly past him -- and he tries to speed up to keep pace -- and close the door. And he gets to the door, bangs his fists against it, and collapses on the floor, crying inconsolably. Like, lying on the ground, head in hands, wailing.

Same with the TV button. When he heads for it, I block his path, put my hand over the button, and say "no" in a firm voice. And he cries and screams and tries to pull my hand away. The way he carries on, you'd think he was being beaten.

Eventually, I'm able to distract him with a different toy or by bouncing the ball or piling up the blocks so that he can knock them down. And he stops crying and walks over to me and throws his arms around my neck and gives me a hug.

Sometimes, when he's hugging me, he puts his mouth on my shoulder and gives me a little bite.

I'm not sure if it's a misplaced attempt at a loving kiss, or a warning.


  1. I wish I could offer you the magic bullet, but why lie? You're doing the right things, it's just that little humans are challenges and sometimes the challenges make us want to lie on the floor and scream, too.

    Fortunately, that doesn't happen very often. Come to think of it, I pulled that once. The offending child was so completely horrified by my behavior that I didn't have a tantrum problem with him again for a while.

  2. That's so funny -- I remember reading somewhere that the way to curb a toddler's tantrum-y behavior is to imitate it to an extreme degree, because the likely reaction will be that they will stop and recoil in disgust.

    I feel like we're doing the right things, it's just a very interesting and challenging process. But most of the time, he's the sweetest, funniest little monkey, so well worth the times when he isn't.

  3. Anonymous4:51 PM

    He's entering that infamous toddler stage. He's exploring & learning new things, & is going to test you & Jason with every little step. You'll say "stop that," "put that down," "leave that alone," take that out of your mouth," "put that back in your mouth" more times than you can ever imagine.

    And don't let people get you with that terrible 2's garbage. Maurice never had bad toddler years. He waited until he turned 5!

    Also, try to observe how other kids in his class react to situations. Some uncharacteristic things that you see Zeke do may be things he's picked up at school, like the falling out & crying. Nip that in the bud early before he pulls that one on you in public.

  4. We're right there with you. It's amazing how quickly Walt can turn on full-fledged tears when he doesn't get what he wants.

    The cell phone is a big attraction. One time, he fell and bumped his head. He usually is pretty tough and shakes it off, but it was late, he was tired, so we got some tears.. As I picked him up to comfort and "poor baby" him, he sniffled pathetically and pointed over to the shelf where we keep our phones. The Master.