So I was pleased when I picked Ally up from school and found her wearing a humungous sticker in the shape of a blue ribbon with the words "Good rester" handwritten on it, which meant she'd actually taken a nap and let the other children sleep too. All the children are sent home with a daily report sheet that tells the parents how their kids did at school that day and Ally's had nothing but smiley faces on it, another indicator that she'd had a great day. I told Ally that since she'd been so good for the past two days, we'd go to the Sinkland Farms Pumpkin Festival on Saturday. Ally was thrilled and began talking nonstop about feeding the farm animals, especially the ponies.
Then, after dinner, something changed. I'll just blame it on the full moon. Ally got upset that the dress from one doll didn't fit on her other doll. She threw a fit when I told her we didn't have any M&Ms left over because she'd already eaten them. She didn't want to use the potty before bed time. And these were not little sniffley crying bouts...I'm talking prostrate on the floor, kicking her feet around, screaming until her face turned red fits. It took a long time to calm her down enough to go to bed.
Then the real fun started. Ally called out that she wanted to go the bathroom. I told her fine, go ahead, I'd be up in a minute. She exploded as only a three year old can because she wanted Daddy, not Mommy. I tried to explain to her that Daddy was working in his office and couldn't come right then, but I'd be up in a second. Clearly Ally felt this just would not do and only Daddy could provide the potty assistance that she required right then. I went up and tried to get her to use the potty but she insisted that she had to go back to sleep right now. Fine, I thought, and left the room, only to be called back two minutes later because Ally need to go pee pee. I got her into the bathroom, where she had another meltdown because I wasn't Daddy, then she peed and went back to bed. That's when she began complaining that she wanted her fuzzy fleece blanket and not the lightweight sheet we put on her when she first goes to bed. The fuzzy blanket is a twin-sized, heavy plush blanket that's just too hot until later at night, when it cools off some. I tried to tell Ally that she'd be too hot, but she wouldn't listen and kept wailing that she wanted it. I think I finally told her it was the sheet or nothing at all, which merely goaded Ally into another bout of screaming and I walked out of the room. She called me back again and submitted to the misery of the light weight sheet and I went back downstairs. By then the commotion had pulled Steve out of his office and he looked at me questioningly as I walked past him, but I was too aggravated to say anything as I stalked off to take a shower.
By the time I got out of the shower I could hear more wailing and crying upstairs, so I knew Steve was getting his full share of Ally's tantrum. Apparently she wanted to go to the bathroom again and Steve had taken her twice, but she didn't do anything when she sat on the toilet. Steve was angry with Ally for her behavior, Ally was still wailing, and I knew we needed to defuse the situation before thermonuclear war broke out. I got Steve to come back downstairs and I went up to try to calm her down. I did get her to use the potty but then she wouldn't listen to me about going back to bed. Finally I snapped and told her that she couldn't watch any TV the next night because she'd been so bad that evening. This only caused Ally to gulp in panic and start a new wave of tears while she protested that she had been good, she wanted to watch TV, that she was listening to us, etc. She got herself so worked up that I finally resorted to my last weapon: threatening to not take her to the Pumpkin Festival if she didn't calm down that instant.
Big mistake. I might as well have tossed a few more logs onto a raging inferno for all the good that did me. More tears, more kicking, more screaming, more tantruming. "But I want to go! I want to go to the festival!" Finally I got her to take some deep breaths to calm down enough to get her in the bed. I'd like to think I was able to talk her into calming down, but in reality she was probably so exhausted at the point that she would have done it on her own if I had just left. She was still pleading about going to the festival when she fell asleep.
The rules of conflict resolution for either parenting or combat only work if the offending party has a belief system similar to the defending party. This does not apply to a toddler. I recognize the mistake of trying to explain to Ally why her behavior was so bad, which seems like an intuitive step in conflict resolution but instead it just prolonged the entire episode. She's not interested in logic, she just wants immediate gratification. Instead I should have just waited until breakfast this morning to talk to Ally about her behavior. Suggesting that she had lost her TV and post-dinner snack privileges due to her prolonged, horrendous temper tantrum merely amped up her crying, and throwing out the big guns of "We're not going to the Pumpkin Festival!" just threw more fuel on the fire.
Thankfully Ally got a good night's sleep and seemed perfectly okay when she got up this morning. While we ate breakfast I told her that Mommy and Daddy had talked things over and we had decided that we could still go to the Pumpkin Festival if Ally was really good today. I showed her yesterday's report sheet with all the smiley faces and asked Ally if she could do that again. She nodded cheerfully and said she'd listen to her teachers. I thanked her and reminded her that if she behaved like she did last night, then we couldn't go. She looked at me with big eyes and said, "Last night I didn't behave because I didn't want the pancake syrup on my pancake."
I was astounded that Ally referenced her episode with the pancake syrup and the blueberries, which has got to be one of the top contenders for Ally's Temper Tantrum Hall of Fame, but at least she seems to have some general idea of the degree to which she was misbehaving. I tried not to laugh out loud and told her, "Yes, exactly like that."