As parents of kids with special needs, we're experts on our children's tantrums
-- what triggers them, how to change the environment
to prevent them, how to learn
from the things they communicate -- but what we don't like to talk about is the fact that we have tantrums, too. We keep ourselves together so expertly until that moment when it all blows up and we're screaming and pushing and saying things we shouldn't just like our out-of-control kiddos. If you've ever wondered, in the aftermath of a mommy meltdown, just where the heck that came from, consider these ten ways to give yourself a temper tantrum. Maybe you like the idea of freaking out your family now and then, and these steps will get you there. On the other hand, if you hate the way losing it makes you and your loved ones feel, make this your reminder of what not
1. Spend too much time on the Internet.Read blog posts or forum posts or social-media dispatches that make steam come out your ears. Get in a comment war, or don't comment at all but let the comments you'd like to make run around and around in your head. Imagine the comments people would make back and get angry all over again. Let people you've never met get your goat.
2. Help your children with homework.
Feel an obligation to make sure they get every answer right, even if you have to figure it out yourself. Let them try it themselves first, then agonize over their difficulty before ordering them to do it your way. Fume over all the modifications your kids should be getting to help with this, the textbooks
you didn't get home, the notes the teacher didn't make to clarify the assignment. Imagine the angry e-mails you would send the teacher if you weren't so busy doing homework.
3. Talk to your relatives.
Or just replay past conversations with your relatives.
Or just fill your head with the conversations you'd like to have had, where you give them a piece of your mind. Debate each point again and again, supplying outrageous responses in reply to your arguments. Carry the anger from those imagined confrontations into future contacts with those relatives. Take offense.
4. Sweat the small stuff.Your house is messy. Your refrigerator makes a lot of noise. Telemarketers have your number. There's a fly in your kitchen. The dog is shedding more than ever. Gas just went up another dime. Your computer is slow. Somebody left tissues in pockets that went through the wash. A faucet is dripping somewhere. All these things are happening specifically to tick you off.
5. Get less sleep.
Resting your body and your brain is a luxury you can't afford. There are books
to read, e-mails to compose, backpacks
to clean out, homework
to finish, IEPs
to read, information packets
to assemble, behavior plans
to compose and propose, reward charts
to layout and print, obscure diagnoses to research,
things to do do do do do do do do do.
6. Take it hard.Taking it easy is for wimps. Sure, there are 500 hours of TV shows waiting for you on your DVR, DVDs from three or four Christmases ago still unwatched, some fun novels that have absolutely nothing to do with special needs gathering dust on the bookshelf, a nice comfy couch just waiting for your behind to settle in and have a little "you" time. Don't give in. Keep giving all your time to others. But resent it mightily.
7. Worry.About how your child's doing now. About how your child will do in the future. About how your child did in the past, and whether you did the right thing. Whether you're doing the right thing right now. Whether you've done the right things to plan for the future. Worry especially about things you can't do anything about but worry.
8. Be afraid.Be very afraid. Imagine every possible bad thing that can happen to your child, or can happen to you and impact your child. Be certain that every noise in the house is a robber, every piece of mail is a denial of service from the insurance company, every phone call is from the principal, every ring of the doorbell is a child-protection worker coming to remove your kids. Let dread keep up a constant hum in the back of your mind.
9. Suffer long.You know you're going to explode one day, but just keep pushing those stressed-out feelings down. Don't let your emotions out in small spurts with an occasional good cry, a periodic brisk and grumpy walk, a good gripe over coffee with a safe friend. Wait for a loved one to do one small thing that piles on the final straw and makes you blow up for no apparent reason at all.
10. Break all the rules.
When you do blow, as you eventually must, use it as an excuse to do all those things you know are bad, bad ideas. Curse in front of your kids. Say things you know will be hurtful to the people you love. Be mean in ways that will undo all your hard work in getting your kids to trust and communicate. Make your children hysterical right along with you, even though you're all too well aware of the kind of reverberations emotional unhinging
will have for them long after you've forgotten what the big deal was. Cry, kick, scream, storm, slam, stomp. You'll create plenty of guilt and regret you can use to launch yourself into the next cycle of tantrum-building.