A meltdown a day I can deal with; a tantrum for the sake of a tantrum just because he can…well, that’s another story.
Mind you, my friends, I know the difference. A meltdown has, at its core, a level of frustration that moves J to behave in a manner that will get him attention for something he cannot express is wrong. A tantrum comes with a sly smile and says “dance, monkey! Dance!”
Oh, we were patient throughout. We bathed him as he beat the crap out of himself, and smiled. We took deep breaths as we saw his hand get redder, and we tried to divert him. He was relentless. He was enjoying the power he was exercising.
And then I calmly sat him down. I showed him how red his hand was, and I told him that there would be NO PIZZA FRIDAY, and NO FIVE GUYS SATURDAY. He had not been melting down; he was being a brat. I then informed him (before ten P.M….egads, Brain!) that it was bedtime.
I tap the iPad screen and the Proloquo says: NO PIZZA FRIDAY.
I go back to the iPad: NO FIVE GUYS FRIDAY.
SORRY! I LOVE YOU.
Oh, we love you, too. Bedtime.
Get your story, pack your things, and up we go to bed.
The iPad talks for me: NO PIZZA FRIDAY.
Nope, buddy…nothing doing.
I accept your apology. I won’t give you a reward for it though.
I go back to the iPad and tap buttons in quick succession: J RUDE. J NO UPSET. J HIT. HIT WRONG. MAMA AND DADA WORRIED. J GROUNDED.
Stunned silence, and acquiescence. He gathers his things, and we head upstairs.
When we get to the kitchen he looks at the board where PIZZA, TARGET and TAXI were on display for Friday, and FIVE GUYS was on for Saturday. I calmly take them down and put them back in the tray.
J looks at me. SORRY. I say “I appreciate your apology, but I cannot reward a tantrum just because you think it’s funny. Upstairs, please.”
Of course, he turned on the charm while we went through the bedtime routine, but I stayed cool and calm, said GOOD NIGHT, and left Dada to read Mouse Soup. We were all in bed by ten-fifteen, and then J came into the room to check if Dada had clothes out for work. I told him to leave the closet alone, and march to bed.
At 5:45 this morning he walked into our room and said COFFEE. We told him to go back to bed. At 5:52 he repeated his request. I got out of bed, put a timer on for him to stay in his room, and went back to bed.
How do I know that last night’s incident was a tantrum and not a legitimate meltdown? Because my son has been trying to be as charming as can be, and he has been SIB-free all morning.
Oh, that might change. It might be a SIB-ful afternoon, but this is proof that J knows what he’s doing, and he also knows that there is a point when I will no longer go “poor baby! Do what you will with my nerves.”
I feel empathy for my son. I really do. I want him to be happy, and I want to help him in any reasonable way I can. I also don’t want him to use SIB as a form of entertainment. “Oh…I’m bored…let’s make the parental units jump, shall we?????” A legitimate meltdown is something that I can unravel and, perhaps over time, find a way to help him manage better. I will not accept entertainment-value tantrums. I will not sink to the level of “reality TV” just because there’s nothing of quality to view at the time.
It is a dreary day. Rain, clouds, fog, gray…and we’re indoors, and we’re stuck with each other. We will be entertained, interactive, affectionate and communicative, but I hope we will also manage to have a little peace of mind today. If he is genuinely upset, we’ll deal with it, but I will not encourage him to manipulate a whole day simply because he can.
Would allowing this help him at all? I don’t think so…but I might be wrong. Feel free to chime in!