August 15th, 2012

To heck with CPR classes and breastfeeding support groups.  The kind of parenting education I’d really like to see offered at the local YMCA is terrorist deescalation training hosted by the FBI.


At the moment, this is the struggle I’m facing with my firstborn.  Once a disciplinary action is called for — or even a firm line drawn in the sand — the situation quickly escalates (or deteriorates, depending on your direction of preference) into an all-out screaming fit.  And I don’t know how to prevent that trajectory.

Take this evening.  We had an awesome day.  It was Miss Mouse’s first day at her new Montessori school and she did great.  No crying at drop-off, no accidents at nap-time.  She was bouncy and jubilant when I picked her up.  After dinner, I took her and Buggie out for ice cream to celebrate her first day.  It didn’t go well.

The trigger was an ice cream mis-communication.  Miss Mouse requested pink ice cream but was affronted to discover it contained strawberries.  The fuse was lit.  Then she couldn’t make up her mind about whether she wanted to sit inside or outside.  After walking back and forth between seating areas three times, I put my foot down and announced we’d be dining outside.

At which point it all went to hell in a hand basket at warp speed.

She was enraged.  She fussed and cried and screamed all the way to the table.  Then she refused to eat her ice cream and tried to take her brother’s.  He objected — loudly — and she slapped him full across the face.  I was floored.  And furious.  So I told her she was done and took away her ice cream.

She went berserk and started windmilling her arms at me, plastic spoon in hand, like some sort of deranged serial killer.  Then she grabbed at Buggie’s cup again, squeezing so hard that his ice cream went all over the ground.  He, naturally, dissolved into hysterics.

The parting view the other patrons had of our family was me hauling her to the car under one arm, both of us covered in ice cream, while she kicked and shrieked and Buggie trotted at my side, holding my hand.

It was insane.  And heartbreaking.  I want to help her learn to control her emotions, but I haven’t figured out how yet.  I think there must be a way to help her walk back from the abyss once she starts to get that worked up — without compromising on the important rules like not slapping one’s brother — but I haven’t figured it out yet.

I recognize that going out may have been a mistake.  We should have celebrated with a special treat at home.  I didn’t account for the fact that her big day probably took a toll on her emotional energy levels.  It was a lot to take in — new building, new teachers, new friends.  Lots of new, lots of different.  Even though she seemed fine, she was probably running on empty, emotionally, and I should have kept the evening low-key.  So there’s a lesson learned.  But I’m still looking for the magic response to her maniac moments!


5 responses to “Escalation”

  1. Rose says:

    I hope lots of wise mothers volunteer some sage advice! My father controlled possible melt-downs with his evil-eye stare. Yep; guaranteed to stop whining children with just one glance. However, he’s the only one I knew to pull that off. My brother-in-law, loving father that he is, would threaten: If you don’t stop crying, I’ll rip your head off and spit down your neck. I always figured it was the kids trying to figure out whether it was possible and whether he’d really do that, that made them stop crying. I would shake my head and laugh. Then quickly leave the room. Hey–there’s a reason I’ve been happy to be the Aunt for 30 years!

  2. Jenny says:

    This was definitely NOT FUNNY— except in blog form. Don’t know whether I laughed harder at Kate’s blog or Rose’s response…
    On a more serious note, I am sending this to a young friend who brought her 2-year-old to lunch at a mutual friend’s hours earlier in the week. Not for love or money could she induce said 2-yar-old to say “thank you” to our host. Little did she know how much worse things could have been and probably WILL be in the future….

  3. Cindi Frye says:

    She is still so young. Just keep doing your best. You are doing a great job. Takin the ice cream away and making the decision to eat outside were the perfect way to handle the situation. You probably did discuss it with her the next day after she was calm. Tell her what you expect next time. You might also do some other consequence for hitting Malachi, such as take him for ice cream without her, letting her know why, if you feel so inclined. Continue to let her know that you are the boss. That’s about all I can think of. You have a tough job, I know.

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