My 4 yo ds has recently started having meltdowns semi-regularly about the weirdest, most ridiculous things.. Many of these can probably be chalked up to being tired and/or hungry, but what just happened is an example of a situation that has me at a complete loss.
He had just woken up from a good nap not long before, and had just had a snack. He asked if he could watch a show on netflix, which is normally allowed after a nap as kind of a gradual-return-to-the-world-of-the-waking thing. I said yes, that should be fine, but the laptop has been unplugged for a while so we'll need to plug it in for you. I was finishing something up in the kitchen so dh went to help him plug it in, and ds almost immediately starts loudly and rudely insisting that mommy do it. Well, I think that is completely ridiculous, and it doesn't matter at all who plugs in the damn laptop. It's not like he's deprived of me. I'm home with him all day, and dh had just gotten home from work. Also, I can see him in the livingroom from the kitchen, so we're practically in the same room anyway. So we both said no, mommy's busy and daddy is ready to help you now. He refused again, and we told him either daddy can plug it in, or he won't be watching a show after all. So of course, this dissolves into an epic meltdown tantrum where he's screaming and crying. We tell him he needs to either try to take some deep breaths and calm down and at least stop screaming, or he needs to go into his room until he's ready to speak nicely to us and stop freaking out about nothing. He ended up in his room and it took him close to 10 minutes to be ready to come out again.
Anyway, I guess I just don't know how we could have prevented this. Is this just par for the course as far as parenting a 4 year old? I try to be very reasonable and flexible when it comes to the (seemingly) strange things he needs/asks for at times, and sensitive to his general mommy-preference. But I feel like giving in to this request would have amounted to giving in to the demands of a tiny little terrorist. There's absolutely no difference between dh plugging in the laptop and me plugging in the laptop. I've definitely been learning to pick my battles with him, but I also don't think it's appropriate to teach him that we will always bend over backward to accommodate his every little whim, especially when it's something so silly.
He's a bright kid and is capable of good amount of reasoning, and he's a pretty skilled negotiator for his age also:) but I just don't know how to handle him when he gets like this. I mean, by the third time he rudely insisted I do it, I was done with what I was doing in the kitchen and could have plugged it in, but it was still less convenient than DH doing it, and at that point I felt like that would teach him that it's ok to make unreasonable demands, and that we'll eventually give in. Not a precedent I want to set.
How do you handle the weird and ridiculous (to us at least) demands of a kid this age without walking on eggshells or devolving into an angry battle of wills?
I'm thinking it is the age, because DS has recently started melting down too when he doesn't get his way and he just turned 4 recently.
I just let him know when he is done with his tantrum we can talk about it and see if we can come to an agreement, but if he keeps having a fit the first answer stands. Sometimes I might change my mind if after he is calm he can give me a good reason for it, and sometimes the original answer stands. I do make sure he understands though that the tantrum never helps his side, and with him getting what he wants. If he gets too over the top with the tantrum, I let him know he needs to go to his room to calm down as well. The small break normally helps him get back under control if nothing else will, and then we just continue on once he comes back down from his room, with my answer to whatever he had asked that caused to tantrum staying the same.
And yes he tantrums/erupts over the silliest things like Daddy getting him juice instead of Mommy, or Mommy starting the tv show instead of Daddy.
What sometimes works well to nip my ds pre-tantrums in the bud, is when he starts feeling mad.frustrated etc. For example ds wanted some sugar frosted cereal and I said no he can't have that, at which he starts to cry so I get down at his level and say "do you need a hug?" Often he says yes, we hug and he moves on. I don't give in to the cereal. As soon as you do that, well it just gives my ds to use the screaming in public strategy again. It took a while, but now when he gets frustrated doing something, he just comes over and says " mamma I need a hug" cutest thing in the world.
The other day, I was cutting ds' nails and I had the waste basket by the chair. when we were done, he decided to flip out of the chair knocking the wastebasket and all its contents accross the floor. so I yelled (not the best mommy moment) something along the lines of "why did you do that?!!" to which I got, "it was your fault, you put the basket there!!!?? tears brimming and all. Again another not great mommy moment "I didn't move the basket! you were not being careful!!!" to which I got, "IT WAS YOUR FAULT!!!" tears starting to stream. So I said........."do you need a hug?" to which he said........"....okay." and we hugged, he wiped his tears, and went off to play.
I might not be the greatest mom out there but boy hugs are my saving grace. they say I love you, I am not mad, I am sorry, I forgive you, it will be okay, I see you, I understand, I am here for you and I am delighted to have you in my life.