It was Christmas day, after dinner. We were all sitting in the living room. The whole extended family. Everyone agreed to watch a movie together. Except for Robin, who wanted to watch Pokemon. To me, it was immediately obvious how this would end: there’s only one person who can’t get what he wants. So, I desperately started to search for alternatives for Robin. But while I was thinking of a solution, the conflict was already building up and it was not long before Robin started to scream and kick and hit whatever or whoever there was near him.
Martijn held him tight so that he won’t damage things. I felt the angry expectation of the grown-ups in the room: you are his parents, why don’t you deal with him? For me, there was only one option: I took him in my arms and calmly told him he can go upstairs with me to figure out a solution together. It took a while before my words got through to him, but it worked. He was still in tears when we went upstairs. We listed all the alternatives together, and finally he chose one and was immediately calm. I stayed by him for the rest of the evening.
I asked him a bit later, what he thought about the events. I deliberately avoided to call it a quarrel, in order to keep the conversation completely open. He was critical about himself:
I made everyone angry, he said.
Would you like to try and do it less frequently?
I’ll try, he promised.
Later, when he fell asleep, I went downstairs, wondering if I should talk about the conflict with the others. Do they think I should have been harder on Robin? Of course they do. I chose not to talk about it anymore.
The next day, I overheard a conversation:
Robin, promise me you’ll never act like you did yesterday!
I will try not to do it so often, I heard Robin answer.
I know he shall. And he knows it is not right to promise that he will never again have a tantrum.
Oh, and one thing I surely have to still ask him: how he was feeling when he was kicking and screaming!