Bringing Peace out of Confusion: How to Stop a Tantrum in Three Seconds Flat
Recently, as I pushed my shopping cart through my local mega-store, I saw a poor harassed mother. She was trying valiantly to control a little terror that had clearly gotten the best of her. I watched as she begged and pleaded with a child who looked to be about four years old. I watched as she offered bribes and threatened. I watched as her little bundle of joy kicked her, defied her, and threw himself down in the aisle to kick and scream at the top of his vocal range. I was momentarily taken back to the one and only tantrum I have ever had the misfortune of enduring at the hands of my own little bundle of joy.
When my youngest son was four, we took a trip to our local park, had lunch at McDonald’s and then went to Kmart to pick up a few things before going home for our nap. My little angel began to whine and complain for a toy he had pulled from the shelf as we passed. I explained that he had already chosen a toy and could only have one. When I removed the object of his affection from his hot little hands and explained to him that he couldn’t have both, he took it up a notch. He threw himself down in the middle of the aisle and began to kick and scream and bang his head against the floor. I was stunned. I had never experienced anything like this type of behavior. I stood standing, with my mouth hanging open as I tried to process what was happening. I was completely at a loss, worried for his safety and totally embarrassed.
At the time I had two other children with me, my five year old, beautifully behaved son and a three year old little doll, my angel. My hands were full. I have always believed in punishment for bad behavior being delivered promptly (none of that wait until I get you home stuff). Trying to discipline him wasn’t working because he was screaming too loudly to hear me explaining to him that he was punished (go figure). Luckily in my hands I held the answer to my silent prayer. I had the left over beverage from our trip to McDonald’s. I poured the entire contents of my ice cold Sweet Tea in his face. He gasped, sputtered and tried to catch his breath. I picked him up, with tea dripping from his eyelashes, hair and precious little Gymboree romper. I left my cart mid-aisle and took him home. He took his nap that afternoon a little damp, a little chastised and certain of the belief that in a fight against Mommy, he would certainly come up short.
I wasn’t certain if he remembered our little tug-of-war all those years ago, but as we piled into our car, I heard him telling his friends the story of his temper tantrum. “Yeah,” he said. “My Mom could handle that, she is seriously not having it.” He laughed as he retold his story. “She dumped a Big Gulp on me, right in my face. Bet I never tried that again.”