The 21st century is opening up new dimensions in the expression of anger and frustration towards children. In a good way, overall.|
The other day, I was babysitting for a friend. I had two charges: both boys, one aged 16 months, the other somewhere around one month old.
At the end of the afternoon, the toddler became quite upset. What happened was this: I was eating a rather belated snack, so I was sitting at the dining table, when the baby started wailing in distress. I jumped up and quickly attended to him - it was a minor problem, quickly resolved - then returned to find the toddler had climbed onto my chair and was leaning at a dangerously extreme angle across to the table, trying to reach my laptop.
Now, the toddler knows he isn't allowed to climb on the chairs. When adults are around, he will often spontaneously push the chairs in if someone's left one out (for which he is praised), and when he does make as if to climb, a verbal reminder that he's not allowed to do so will stop him doing it.
So he knew he was doing something he's not allowed to do. Which means my stern, "No! [Name], do not climb on the chairs!" can't have come as a surprise, nor can my lifting him off the chair and putting him on the floor.
Nonetheless, he screamed.
For the next hour and a half. He only stopped when his mother came home.
All of my efforts to calm him, comfort him, distract him, or entertain him were for nought. When I tried to pick him up, sometimes his screams would be muffled when he pressed his face into my chest, but more often my ears would be left ringing from him screaming right next to them.
This was not, from my perspective, pleasant. But he's a toddler, so it's not like I can blame him on any kind of moral level, and it's not like I can express the frustration and annoyance I was experiencing in a way directed at him without being a horrible person.
So, I kept my voice gentle and loving, and did not vocalise my wish for him to shut up just shut up just stop screaming at me shut up shut up shut up.
However, unlike previous experiences I've had with dealing with toddlers in a Mood, I didn't end up with residual stress and aggravation about the whole thing, because, I recalled afterwards, I had, in fact, acted in bitter vengeful wrath while he was screaming.
It's just not going to put him in therapy, because he won't know about it until he's an adult (if ever).
What I did was pick up my phone, turn on the camera, and record ninety seconds of video of him screaming about nothing, while silently vowing to myself that, approximately twenty years from now, I will make him watch that. I will turn up the volume and loop it for an hour and a half and make him watch.
Okay, realistically, absolutely none of that will happen and I'll probably delete the video when I clean out my phone's camera's memory, but it's awfully satisfying, as you watch a small child having a Mood (At You - he would pause, occasionally, to look at me balefully, and then start screaming again when I tried to talk to him), to tell yourself that you will Have Your Revenge when the child is a grown adult and you are no longer required to be nice to them even when they're being horrible.
But how is it feeling?|
So, in the end today, I managed to get my package - Dave and I detoured to the post office on the way to him dropping me off for therapy.
In the post office I got a number of smiles from the mother of a toddler - he was in a pram, and as they came in, he was grizzling a bit. His mother tried to shush him as they joined the queue directly behind me, without much success.
I turned around and knelt and talked to him a bit until I coaxed a shy smile.
A lot of the time, I think, very small persons who are acting grumpy and miserable and are making the kinds of noises adults wish they wouldn't are in fact just bored. After all, how would you feel if someone put you in a wheelchair, strapped you in, and then wheeled you around utterly uninteresting places you didn't choose to go to for hours while ignoring you, except to tell you to be quiet if you made any kind of noise?
By the way, in this scenario, you can't read, not even signs that you go past, and you get in trouble if you fidget too much. Also, if you're hungry or thirsty, that's your problem, you can wait until the person wheeling you around feels like giving you food or drink, and you're not allowed to touch anything.
I don't know about you, but it sounds like it should be considered "cruel and unusual punishment" to me, not "normal life for toddlers".
I wish more people in charge of small children would think about this, and actually talk to and interact with the kid more. I know conversations with small children can be tedious, but they can also be enchanting and mind-blowingly fascinating, and I think both you and they will be the better for it.
Failing that, at least tie a couple of toys to the pram and let them have something to play with.
Because there's people like me out there. And you know, as much as I try not to, when I see a child who's miserable, and it's patently clear that they're miserable because they're bored and their parent/guardian/other is ignoring them while they do their own thing?
Just a little tiny bit, I will be thinking: You are a bad parent.
It's not that I'm customarily hyper-judgey of parents. If your baby is crying, I don't think that reflects badly on you as a parent. If your toddler is being a brat, I don't think that reflects badly on you as a parent unless I see you on multiple occasions and your toddler is always a little ratbag. Pretty much every child will have days where even the most loving parent, let alone observing stranger, will wonder whether contraception might have been a better idea after all - I like to believe that a kid who's behaving badly is just having a bad day.
I used to live with a three-year-old. I adored the kid, and most of the time we got on terribly well, but just occasionally she would be in a Mood, and at those times, well... I still loved her, but I didn't exactly want to scoop her up and hug her. On one notable occasion she decided that she Wasn't Going To Bed, and threw screaming fits if I even said she should, let alone picked her up and carried her to her room. She fetched a her-sized chair from her room, carried it into the living room, and sat on it with arms folded, glaring at me as she declared her intention to Sit There.
At which point I decided I had definitely had Enough, and since I knew perfectly well that she was utterly exhausted and would not be able to sustain this for long, I said fine and let her sit there while I read a book.
Eventually she got bored, gave in and agreed to go to bed.
My point: Even the nicest kid can be a little shit sometimes. I get that. But when your child's misbehaviour is entirely because they're bored, I disapprove.
Current Location: Catalyst; couch