Monday, August 1, 2016

Parenthood: Week 163 - Leaving The Cring Kid On The Sidewalk

Ollie was upset the entire car ride to his toddler cooking class. I had to get up Ollie from his nap before he had woken up and the transition from the crib to the car did not go smoothly. He cried and pouted in the car. I explained where we were going and that he would enjoy cooking class once he got there, but this didn't helped.

Luckily we found street parking only a couple doors down from the play space that was hosting the cooking class. Ollie had stopped crying but he was still upset. I had to fight him to unlatch the car-seat and immediately after he crawled into the front seat. I somehow managed to him out of the car and when I put him down on the sidewalk, he plopped down on the ground.

I asked Ollie to hold my hand and he refused. When I tried to hold his hand, he pulled it away from me and tried to swat my hand away. When I attempted to him up, he went completely boneless and when I talked to him, he just screamed at me.

The weather was warm, the high 70s, it was a wide sidewalk with minimal foot traffic, the sidewalk was clean and we were five minutes early to the cooking class (and even if we got there a little late, it wasn’t a big deal). With all of those factors in play, there was no reason that I couldn’t let him throw his little tantrum and wait him out.

When Ollie was a baby and he didn’t want something, or didn’t want to go somewhere, I would just pick him up. He couldn’t really fight me very well. His feelings were simpler and based more on impulses. As a toddler, things have gotten more complicated. Ollie now has much more developed reasoning abilities. The world makes a lot more sense to him so he can enjoy things on a deeper level. At the same time, the world is now more confusing and this can cause different levels of distress.

Beyond the emotional issues, there’s a safety concern. Picking up a flailing one year old that doesn’t want to be held is a lot easier that picking up a three year old in full tantrum mode. When Ollie goes boneless (or limp as some people call), I fear that by holding him one arm or trying to pick him up when Ollie has twisted himself into certain positions, I might hurt him. Also, the possibility of picking him up when he’s upset and have him fight me so much that I drop him has led me to often just letting him sit there until he’s ready to move on.

Emotionally, it’s better to let the toddler calm down and come when they are ready as opposed to forcing them to move. Also, if the tantrum goes long and it means that they miss something they enjoy, this will be far more motivating than your words.

The problem is that I can’t leave Ollie in the middle of a parking lot. When we are leaving the house and he doesn’t want to come with us, we can walk out the door and stand in the front yard until he decides to join us. It’s not quite as safe to do this in a busy retail store.

In this situation, Ollie was safe pouting in the middle of the side walk, so I stood there, and surfed the web on my phone, keeping one eye on Ollie, periodically checking in on him, asking him casually if he wanted to go to cooking class. He kept saying no, so I would walk away and watch him from a distance.

People walked by. One mother with a toddler of her gave me some supportive comments. Another older couple concerned that Ollie was abandoned, looked very worried until I waved over to them and they smiled, instantly understanding the situation. Most people walked by pretending not to notice like people at a party, when a couple is getting into a fight in the corner of the room.

After about ten minutes, Ollie agreed to let me help him into cooking class. Once he found his seat at the snack table, he was fine and he had a great time at cooking class.

Raising a toddler can be a battle, but sometimes it's best not to fight. I have no shame in letting my son tantrum in public as long as he is in a safe situation. I know it makes some people uncomfortable to see this.  It would be heartless to not feel uncomfortable seeing someone of any age upset to the point of tears.

Know this: toddlers learning how to self-sooth through tantrums and understanding that tantrums are not a productive way to communicate benefits all of society. If kids don’t learn these lessons as toddlers, tantrums will continue into adulthood in the form of negativity, disrespect and immaturity.  So if you want to avoid raising a kid with Donald Trump-like characteristics, when you can, let your toddler make a scene and give them the space to work it out.

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