Have you ever stared at your sleeping toddler and wondered, “How did the once calm and docile newborn you gave birth to turned into such a strong-willed child?” I certainly hope we are not the only parents experiencing such drastic change in our child’s behaviour – that it’s just another phase or something expectant parents go through with their eldest offspring.
E’s tantrums have been occurring more frequent than ever these days. It’s becoming more challenging to keep the house mess-free as the little one roams around endlessly, attempts new act (even dangerous ones) at every opportunity and grabs everything that’s within or out of his reach. The world seems to revolve around him only, and nothing but him. Tantrums begin when we try to defy him. Hubby and I are at our wits’ ends figuring out what else we can do to ease this process.
We have never been the kind of parents who take the easy way out and give in to every of his whims and fancies. We have always set boundaries and are strict when there’s a need to be. Our style of parenting has always revolved around practicality, simplicity and being grateful. We never spoilt him or lavish him with limitless gifts; our greatest present is spending time and giving him one-to-one attention. We have always ensured that in any potential meltdown, options are given, negotiation/coaxing is attempted and distraction is carried out in the most desperate scenario. We choose which battle to fight and which to let go. He wins some, we lose some and vice versa. But lately, we have resorted to things we never thought we would do (and not proud to tell) – physical punishment, threats, TV to keep him quiet etc. It doesn’t help when I’m suffering from round-the-clock nausea and lethargy, while the overtired Hubby holds the fort. At times like this, I really wish that we have external help from family members or perhaps, a domestic helper. It would have been nice to give Hubby and I a break.
Last Saturday was especially tough. We were back in our hometown, having lunch at a nearby cafe. As usual, E asked for this and that (more sauce, more soup, one extra fork/spoon etc.) while we were eating. Then, out of a sudden, he uttered something that sounded like ‘diaper’ and pointed to the table. There wasn’t any diaper on the table, so we thought that maybe he wanted my noodles and gave him some. Frustrated, he started whimpering and said ‘no’. So Hubby and I took turns to offer everything that was on the table one by one but nothing worked. His cries turned into wails and every patron in the cafe started staring at us. Grandpa tried to distract him by offering to go ‘walk-walk’ outside but E retorted and screamed “Nooooooooo!” I offered him my starfruit juice (which usually works) but he declined. We continued to persuade him and find out what exactly he wanted. I gave him a hug to calm him down. No luck. Pregnant and starving (I was not even half way through my meal!), I started losing my patience and tapped him. When all failed and he became out of control, I dumped my noodles, yanked him out of his chair (which he was holding on to tightly) and stormed out of the cafe. It would have helped if I have kept my cool but I didn’t. I put him down on the sidewalk for him to ‘let it out’. He rolled around the dirty ground, wailing as if something horribly terrible just happened. We left the cafe shortly after that, with E still wailing and screaming “eat!” “eat!” “eat!” Obviously, he was still hungry but we concluded that if he chose to misbehave during mealtimes, he would go hungry. He fell asleep in my arms on the way home. When he woke up, it was like as if nothing happened. He was back to his usual ~la la la la~ self.
That night, he had a nightmare. He woke up crying “Apple juice!” “Apple juice!” It was then I realised that he has probably been losing too often lately. That probably we have been too strict and inflexible. That perhaps ddmm’s presence shattered his sense of security and made him desiring our attention more than ever. I am guilty of spending more time lying down than nurturing him recently.
Oh did I mention how clingy he was with me? He even followed me to the bathroom when I had to pee in the middle of the night! It’s like I’ve grown a mini shadow overnight 🙂
If you have gone through a similar tantrum episode before, what did you do to contain the situation? Is it perfectly normal for a child to be extra clingy and needy during the impending arrival of a sibling? How can I get my calm and assured child back?