When MasterFour was only three, he went through a stage of pulling tantrums. He didn't get on the ground and bang his fists or anything as dramatic as that, but it was more like uncontrolled, extremely loud crying as a result of not getting his way or because he had been punished. Now at four, the tantrums are few and far between, and they happen mainly as a result of my neglecting to diffuse the ticking bomb in time. I was thinking he had grown out of them, but he pulled on the other day at swimming--so I am not out of those woods yet, but back to my story.
My husband doesn't agree with my method of calming our son down, because he feels I am giving in to the tantrum and that my son is being rewarded for his naughty behaviour with my affection. If the crying starts to ramp up, I usually stop talking--not a word is uttered. I take him into my arms and cuddle him and wait for the wailing to subside. Sometimes getting him to count to 10 slowly helps as a distraction. When he is calmed down, I talk to him about the behaviour/incident that led to his being upset, and if he has hurt someone else or done something that warranted it, he then has to apologise to the person affected. If a punishment was imposed, such as a toy being taken away, that still stands.
I don't feel my method is giving in; I think it is pointless to keep harping at him if it is just making the situation worse. In order to stop myself from being angry so that I am able to give genuinely calming cuddles, I imagine that he is just feeling unwell or is tired, and that he can't help it, because I really do believe that once he gets to a certain state, he needs help to calm himself down. Whatever the stance I was taking in the first place to get him ramped up, remains enforced, but we talk about why I imposed that restriction--afterwards.
At this Time of the Tantrums, there was an incident where the children were outside playing with a cardboard box (Aside: I don't know why I bother to buy them toys, when all they really want to play with is a cardboard box). An argument ensued about whose turn it was to play with the box, voices were raised, tears were shed, and in a fit of exasperation, I threw the cardboard box in the recycling bin. That set the little one off, and the screaming began. I was in the middle of cooking chips in hot oil at the time, so I was unavailable to calm him down. In fact, I didn't even want to have him in the house, because he kept trying to cling to my legs, and I was worried there might be an accident with the hot oil. So, I asked Will to keep him outside with him. Given Will's opinion on my method of calming the child down and his lack of a more effective method, he was unable to calm the situation.
The screaming continued, and the next thing I knew there was a rap at the door. I opened the door to find a police officer standing on my doorstep. He asked me if everything was all right, because there had been a complaint from the neighbour. We explained the situation and he asked the boys if they were OK. I think that my son was a bit shocked to find a policeman on the doorstep and the crying stopped abruptly. It might also be because he got to come up into my arms whilst we talked to the police officer. The police officer seemed satisfied that there was nothing untoward going on and went on his merry way.
My first reaction was of shock, anger and sheer disbelief that my neighbour had called the police! Then I thought about it, and realised that I was glad that someone was concerned for the well being of my little one and had acted--even though the concern was unfounded. Too often you hear horror stories in the news where children are harmed and no one has done anything to intervene. I would like to think that if I was in their situation, hearing a child screaming like that for quite a long time, and not really knowing the neighbour, that I would do something also, even if it risked alienation. So, no, I bore no grudges towards my neighbour as a result of this. I had no idea who it was anyway, we were surrounded by neighbours on all sides.
So, this was a great story, and I told it at work. One of my co-workers asked me, "Don't you KNOW your neighbours?" I thought that was a good question, because if I had taken the time to get to know my neighbours, they would have known that I had a three-year-old in the middle of his tantrum phase, and they might have popped a head around to see if everything was all right, or they mightn't have been concerned at all.
So this was a big lesson. I tried to get to know my neighbours when we moved to our new place a few months later, but now they have all moved away, and new people have moved in. I am back to square one. There are new people across the road, down the road and immediately to our left. The only houses with children on our street are ours and our newest neighbours to our left. Now, this is an opportunity to get to know another mum with small children right next door, but my shyness is winning at the moment, and I haven't made a move. I haven't actually seen anyone outside yet. I have only heard the kids and the dog making their noises in the backyard. If I saw someone in the driveway, I know I would definitely introduce myself (because that is how I got to know our last lot of neighbours), but that hasn't happened yet, so that means I have to go knock on the door and say "Hi!" and then stand there awkwardly.
I know I should be thinking "What is the worse that could happen?" I go over there, introduce myself, have a period of awkward silence, or worse: put my foot in my mouth, and then high-tail it outta there. My neighbour won't want anything to do with me, but if I don't bother to meet this person, she won't have anything to do with me anyway--same result.
Reading back over this, I realise how silly this whole aversion to putting myself out there really is, so my challenge for this week is to go introduce myself to my neighbour. If anybody has any great ideas on how I can do this without making a fool of myself, I look forward to hearing them. Likewise, if you have any good tantrum stories, I would love to read them. It would make me feel better to commiserate with someone else on this-oh-so-fun stage of their childhood.