Thursday, September 21st, 2006
HOW TO: End a Senseless Tantrum
Alternate title: Fighting blind fury with blindness.
My Little Miss has entered her “terrible twos,” which for us means she has crying tantrums a few times per week for no perceptible reason.
My wife’s method of emotion management is to take Miss into a dark room and hold her lovingly. It’s the cry-it-out approach and takes a good 10 to 15 minutes. That’s right, the tantrums only occur at home. We’re so lucky.
I’ve discovered a quick fix which ends the crying within two minutes. The key was noticing my daughter keeps her eyes closed. When her first tantrums occurred as she woke up from naps, we almost thought she was crying in her sleep. Her eyes clamp shut and she cries and cries and never opens them.
So, I thought, why don’t I join her and demonstrate how absurd she is being? I call it the go-blind approach. I pretend to be blind.
It’s a solution rooted in the more common principle of “redirection.” Parents employ redirection when a child gets fixated on something unobtainable — such as the toy you are not purchasing at a store or a helium balloon that has flown away. You distract the toddler with another item of interest or ask her to help you do something, thus making the fixation a distant memory.
My go-blind method is a way to completely distract, confuse and redirect my daughter. Other attempts at distraction are too obvious and cause my daughter to cry louder. Hysterical blindness is so unusual and bizarre it captures her attention. Here is how it goes down:
1) My daughter begins crying uncontrollably, eyes closed.
2) I close my eyes and act both blind and dumb. I ask, “Who is crying? Who is that? I can’t see you, my eyes are closed. I hear someone crying. Where are you? I can’t see you, my eyes are closed.”
3) I reach my hands out and begin clumsily crawling and reaching around the room. At the same time, I continue talking. I never stop asking who is in the room with me, what is happening, and why someone is crying.
4) Our cat Brown enters the room, drawn to the wailing. I reach out and touch Brown. “Is that you Brown? Are you crying? Brown, why are you crying?”
5) About this time, Little Miss stops crying, opens her eyes and watches me. “Oh, Brown, you stopped crying. That’s good. Don’t you like being happy? Being happy is better. Hey, who else is here? Who is that? I can’t see you, my eyes are closed.”
6) I continue fumbling around trying to find my daughter, but intentionally avoid discovering her. Sometimes she tells me where she is, saying something like, “Papa, I’m on the bed,” but I never find her. This charade continues until Little Miss says, “Open your eyes, Papa.” If too much time passes, my wife tells me to open my eyes. And that’s it. The tantrum is over.