When they say nothing can prepare you for fatherhood, one of the things that catch many new dads out is how excruciating the shrill crying can be as it pounds through your ears. You might be lucky enough to have a quiet baby, or possibly be immune to the cries, but many dads (and mums) find the sound of their own baby cry immediately draining.
It’s like someone flushes any and all energy that was in your body. Your heart rate goes up, you get cold sweats. Intolerable.
Well the good news is that all of this is perfectly natural and is nature’s way of telling you that your offspring needs love and attention. It’s OK to feel stressed out by all this crying. It’s OK that it makes you feel angry. It’s OK that you feel frustrated that you can’t soothe your baby’s crying – you just don’t always have breasts for it. You might be used to being Mr. Perfect at work, but all of a sudden you feel useless and defeated by a small tiny version of yourself.
Keep your head, whilst all about you are losing theirs
What’s not OK, of course, is to take the anger out on your baby or partner. There’s a difference between feeling anxious because of a baby crying and being angry with a crying baby. The former is your body’s way of urging you to deal with something urgently. The latter is taking your frustration out on your baby, which is not only wrong – it doesn’t even make sense.
Babies can’t be naughty. Babies can’t do bad things. Babies aren’t wrong.
Once your baby grows into a 2-3 year old toddler, you might think about disciplining them if they’ve done something fundamentally wrong, by teaching them the right way to do something and showing that you are disappointed and sad at the way that they’ve behaved.
How to react to a tantrum
Reacting angrily with them would surely only serve to teach them that Dad has lost control and this is how he sometimes deals with situations? You’re also much less likely to be consistent (as you’re reacting to them based on your immediate emotional response rather than what you think is right for your child). This inconsistency might also send mixed signals about what’s right and wrong. The more confused, misunderstood and out-of-control a toddler feels, the more likely they are to have a tantrum as a result.
As your little one gets older, you’ll be able to have more conversations with them. For now, their way of explaining what they need is to scream the house down. If you’re finding it a big challenge, try relaxation techniques and speaking to your partner, friends or a GP.