Year: 1984, Baby #2. Scene: Toddler #1, a beautiful angel of a child up till then, had become the instant proverbial Two Year Old (TM) now that she had competition for my attention. These screaming fists-pounding-the-floor temper tantrums? Where on earth had they come from?
And of course when she cried the baby cried in sympathy and pretty quickly we were all miserable while I tried to reason with her, hug her, scold her, time her out, anything, please make something work.
I heard from one mom much later that what she had done was to get down on the floor alongside her little kid and throw a no-holds-barred tantrum act herself, fists and feet flailing, making her kid stop and look at her like, Are you crazy? Why are you making this scene? In public!
But that was years in the future.
In tired new-mother desperation one day, I called my Mom.
Mom said, Offer to pour a glass of cold water on her head.
Me: Say what?
Mom: Offer to pour cold water on her head. A little cold water does wonders on tantrums. Trust me.
Note that she didn’t say to just pour it, she said to make it the child’s decision.
So then I was just waiting for my chance, curious to try it, and hoped it would come at a time at home where I had instant access to the tap.
It was. She did.
I smiled sweetly, totally knowing I could do this, and in my best loving-Mom voice asked, Sam? Would you like me to pour some cold water on your head?
Given who the clean-up crew would have been on that one, thanks, we’ll let that suggestion pass, and I quickly half-filled a cup at the sink. She screamed away and I poured out just a few drops into the top of her blonde curls–just enough to get her attention.
Instant end of tantrum while she assessed this new outcome. (Me: Wow! Magic!)
The next time she threw a major tantrum we were again, thankfully, at home, and I smiled and happily reiterated the offer.
End of screaming fit. Like flipping a switch.
After that I only had to offer I think once more ever.
She learned at the ripe old age of 27 months that she didn’t have to be controlled by rage but could stop. That she could respond instead to my being loving to her. It absolutely required I be at my best for it to work, and I wasn’t going to risk losing a foolproof method by fooling with it with a bad mood, but it let her be her best, too.
And I felt like the best Mom ever.
So, with a thousand thanks to my Mom and her wisdom, I pass the idea along.
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