We have three kids. And you would think that by child number three would have some things down. Bedtime routine, dinners that please young palates, and a surefire way of dealing with outward demonstrations of internal frustrations or, tantrums, if you will.
Unfortunately, I think the only thing we really learned, is that all kids are different. This is true no matter your circumstance, but particularly ours given that we have one with ADHD, one with autism, and one who is now typical, but hardly “typical”. (But then what does typical even mean when you’re talking about kids?)
Our four-year-old, who is our youngest and are “typical” child has been having the year of the tantrum. She was a lovely compliant child until about the age of three when she suddenly realized that she could have an opinion and not just do what mommy and daddy said.
Fortunately, having two older children we were prepared. To feel like we had no idea what we were doing.
I remember before I had kids I used to judge people whose children through fits in public. Surely, I thought, their kids were like that because they were spoiled. Then God blessed us with our oldest son. And a blessing he is, don’t get me wrong. But he also humbled me, and challenged my perception on what tantrums were, and why they were thrown.
With him tantrums often stemmed from a lack of impulse control. They were not necessarily attempts to manipulate. However, I had to learn that. I also had to learn that trying to talk to him while he was throwing a tantrum was unfruitful. Offering ultimatums is also something that doesn’t work. Not with him. The very best thing I can do, from the time he was to even to now at the age of seven, is to have him go to his room and work his way through the fit. Once the tantrum has run its course I’m usually able to communicate with him and have a reasonable conversation.
Then there’s my middle child. I don’t think he’s had a traditional tantrum once in his whole life. He will go into periods where he cries, but it’s often not related to whether or not he’s gotten his way but usually connected to some kind of sensory issue. In many ways, he’s the most easy-going of the three and while his autism certainly present some challenges, tantrums are not one of them.
And we come back to the four-year-old. I think her tantrums of the most classic in nature. Some of them are genuine outbursts of upset, and others are definitely designed to manipulate us. Her most recent trick is to tell her she’s scared. Anything she doesn’t want to do from swim lessons, to going to bed, has her wailing “Mommy, I’m scared!” This is much more effective than throwing herself on the ground screaming. And for a while it was effective. Until we figured it out.
So now we often end up carrying a wailing, screaming child, through a store while she shrieks “I’m scared!”. Good times. With her, the best course of action with the tantrum seems to be to power through and do whatever it was we were going to do in the first place. But her tantrums come from a different place that our oldest son’s do, and she does it for a different reason.
It was an interesting thing to realize and definitely something I’m still getting a handle on. So much of parenting seems to be trial and error. Giving in when we sometimes shouldn’t, digging in when it may not of been wise. Yelling when we should have ignored them, and being too lenient when it was time to get tough.
All that to say, I often feel like having three kids should make me feel like a more experienced parent. When in reality, while you certainly gain more experience in some things it doesn’t change the fact that what I’m dealing with his three distinct personalities. They do things for different reasons, they want different things, they like different things. They all develop at different rates. And they react to things differently.
This is why I think all parenting advice should be taken with a grain of salt. Advice is generalized, based on what kids typically do and why, but it’s never the be-all and end-all. Kids are as different from one another as adults are from each other.
In the meantime I’ll continue to try and get a handle on my daughter’s tantrums, probably just in time for her to grow out of the phase. Have you handled your kids’s tantrums? And did you, like me, find the different methods worked for different children?
*This post was brought to you by Maisey using Dragon Dictate. If there are screwy typos, and by that I mean more than usual, that’s why.