We have a problem around these parts. It's called the iPad. Mazzy's love of the iPad has reached unacceptably large proportions. It's the first thing she asks for when she wakes up and once she's got it in her hands, you can't take it away without her throwing a fit.
This weekend I finally decided enough was enough. When Mazzy woke up from her afternoon nap, I wasn't going to give it to her. We could do anything else she wanted— go to the playground, have a snack, dance to her favorite music, etc. But she was not getting the iPad.
MIKE: Good luck with that!
Mazzy woke up and did her usual groggy "iPad, iPad…"
ME: No sweetie, we're not playing with the iPad now. How 'bout I read you a book?
MAZZY: iPad, iPad…
ME: Sorry, sweet pea. We're not playing with the iPad right now. Let's have a snack and then go to the park.
MAZZY: IPAD!!!! IPAD!!!!! IPAAAAAAAAAAAD!!!!!!!
If you could hear that last IPAAAAAAAAD through your computer, it would sound like a truck of caged chickens crashing into a chalkboard factory. And yes, it escalated that quickly.
But I held my guns.
Mazzy went absolutely beserk.
Mike gave me an "I told you so" smirk which is always super helpful.
The screaming was relentless. I tried desperately to soothe her by holding her, stroking her hair, wrapping my arms around her as tightly as possible. If I attempted to put her down, the tantrum got ten times worse. After what seemed like an hour of furious cries that only got louder with each passing second, I couldn't take it anymore.
ME: Mazzy. If you don't stop screaming, I am going to put you in your crib until you calm down.
Mike gave a "she called your bluff" eyebrow raise which made me want to throw a shoe at him.
ME: Alright babe. We're going to the crib.
There is nothing more heartwrenching than leaving your daughter screaming "MOMMMMEEEEEEEE!!!!!" while standing helplessly in her crib.
But I did it.
And I shut the door.
MIKE: How long do you plan to leave her there?
ME: I have no idea. I'm calling Dr. B.
Dr. B (aka my sister) said now that I had started it, I had to keep her there until she stopped crying.
ME: But what if she never stops crying?
DR. B: She'll stop.
I asked Dr. B if I did the wrong thing. She said no, its important to follow through on what you say but now that you know how attached she is to the iPad, you can come up with a better strategy for next time.
1) Since the iPad seems to be an important part of her after-naptime routine, I'd focus on limiting usage instead of taking it away completely.
2) If she has a tantrum when you try to limit usage, try putting her down and ignoring her before jumping straight to crib banishment. You don't want Mazzy to associate her bed with something bad.
3) After you put her on the floor, I'd start playing with one of Mazzy's favorite toys yourself and wait for her to join you.
ME: But having Mazzy cry on the floor staring at me while I ignored her would be heartbreaking!!!
Dr. B (in summary): Parenting is hard.
ME: Should I take her out now?
(audible sounds of Mazzy screaming through the walls in the background)
DR. B: Nope. You have to follow through. You can't take her out until she stops crying.
ME: Okay. Am I horrible parent?
DR. B: No. I'm proud of you for taking control of the situation.
About an hour later, Mazzy finally quieted down. I went in. Her face was streaked with tears, her hair matted with snot, her body slumped in the corner of the crib closest to the door, pressed against the slats.
She looked at me with complete defeat.
MAZZY: I— I— I can't go— ANYTHING.
I had to laugh. She was exactly right. At 23 months, Mazzy figured out her predicament and put it into words. She is one impressive kid.
ME: Do you want to come out?
I lifted her out of the crib and gave her a big hug. Mazzy pulled back to look me straight in the eye.
MAZZY: I LOVE YOU!!!
ME: I love you too babe. Can I wipe your face with a wet washcloth?
ME: And then we can go to the playground?
MAZZY: YES! Go the the playground!
I brought Mazzy into the living room.
ME: Look— it's Daddy.
MAZZY: Hi Daddy. I LOVE YOU!
MIKE: I think you broke her.
When was the first time you punished your kid? What action do you take in the face of a tantrum?