You get used to their antics while throwing a fit after a while. You learn enough about their irrational ways during a fit of temper to properly anticipate, and safely weather, many of their outbursts.
If you’re not yet schooled in the Five Stages of Throwing a Tantrum, don’t worry. I’m here to help.
Stage 1 of a Tantrum: WHINING
They always to start slow when throwing a fit. Usually some soft whining that eventually becomes cry-whining and maybe straight tears. It’s excruciating, and often lasts a long time. Most parents quickly become inured to it. Since it’s ineffective, it necessitates escalation.
Stage 2 of a Tantrum: DEFIANCE
Now it starts to get real. The child asserts himself. He doesn’t care what you say, he’s not having it! He’s doing what he wants, and he’s getting what he wants, or else! This is a fun one to ignore as long as you’re not in public and can keep yourself from swearing at the little punk.
Stage 3 of a Tantrum: GOING BALLISTIC
You have reached actual tantrum status. With actual flailing. And the screaming! It’s bizarre to witness and, if you’re not in the middle of a Target, I suggest grabbing yourself a drink. With the right perspective, your child throwing a fit is entertaining. AND it tires them out! Plus, if you give in now, he owns you.
Stage 4 of a Tantrum: DENIAL
Speaking of bizarre, when my kid hits Stage 4, he silently lies down on the floor, face-first, as if to will the incident away. Or maybe he’s licking the floor. Who knows! Whatever it is he’s doing, it doesn’t work because at this point I’ve stopped caring and am usually doing whatever I can to keep from laughing.
Stage 5 of a Tantrum: ACCEPTANCE
(Just kidding!) POUTING
Now he has a choice: give up, start over, or go out with some dignity. He knows once you get past Stage 3, you’ve already won, so his emotions finally shrivel into chastened, bitter defeat. Pouting is a last gasp at maintaining the self-respect that, unfortunately, left that building during Stage 4.
A version of this first appeared on Dad and Buried.