“I don’t know what to do anymore,” I told my friend Sharon. “His tantrums are like kryptonite to my mothering skills.”
I had called Sharon because I knew she would understand my dilemma, having a high-energy little boy of her own who was several months older than Seabass. At the time, Seabass had hit a whole new level of difficulty: random meltdowns and tantrums of biblical proportions. What do I do? I thought to myself. Do I ignore him? Get in his face? Spank him? What?!? It seemd that no matter what I tried, nothing helped calm him down and get him to a place where he could listen to reason.
Like so many desperate phone calls for advice to fellow mothers, this one was made in the eleventh hour, with the latest tantrum still raging. Thankfully, I’d had the wherewithall to put Seabass in his room with the door closed to scream and thrash while I made my call. If I hadn’t done that, this post might have been coming to you from Prison Block C rather than the comfort of my couch. I had HAD it.
Sharon was awesome. “My little guy has something we call ‘the fussing spot,’ she divulged. It’s just a little floor mat that we lay down for him to sit on while he cries or whatever. When the crying stops, we talk, hug, and get up.” Sensing my skepticism of the fussing spot’s transferability to my situation, she added, “I can’t promise it will work for you, but it has worked wonders for us.”
With that in mind, I decided to move forward with Mission Fussing Spot. Seabass’ next tantrum occurred over something trivial – something like a cracker broken in half – and I quickly whipped out a faded brown floor rug we use to wipe our feet on at the front door. (Not exactly the cleanest spot, but it’s what I had.) I situated it on the fringe of the kitchen where Seabass could see me while I washed dishes. “Look at me,” I ordered him, through the buckets of snot and tears gushing from every orifice of his face. “This is THE FUSSING SPOT. You will sit on this and not get up until I see that you have stopped crying. STAY HERE.”
Of course, the first thing Seabass did was try to get up. But with one more “STAY HERE” and a firm squaring of the buns on the mat, he got the idea and…wait for it…he stayed there.
It was probably five excrutiating minutes before he stopped crying. (Five minutes is nothing, I know. There are plenty of kids out there for whom a good tantrum isn’t over before 30 minutes are up.) When he had settled down a bit, I dried my hands and squatted beside him. Then we had a little talk about how I loved him and didn’t like punishing him, but that he would have to go to the fussing spot any time his crying got out of control. Then we hugged. I really liked that part.
The fussing spot has become a good tool for discipline and self control in our house. Sometimes Seabass works the system by claiming he’s all done fussing the second I sit him down, but for the most part he gets it.
In fact, there have been several times when something upset him – the dog looked at him funny or the sun was shining too brightly through the window – and he fetched the fussing spot on his own. It is not uncommon for him to quietly lay the mat down, arrange the corners just so, sit down on it and proceed to wail. Those are tough times not to laugh. How do you keep from smiling when your not-even-two–year-old knows he has a bad attitude and needs a time-out?