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Fatherly Advice: Post-Preschool Meltdowns Are the Best Kind of Tantrums

Fatherly's resident parenting expert talks about why kids better behave at school and why farts are legitimately the funniest unless you're Geoff.

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“Fatherly Advice” is a weekly parenting advice column by the experts at Fatherly. Need hard-won insights and scientific facts to resolve a parenting dilemma or family dispute? Email advice@fatherly.com. Need justifications for parenting decisions you’ve already made? Ask someone else. We’re far too busy for that nonsense.

 

Dear Fatherly,

My kid is usually a mess when she comes home from preschool. She just gets home and melts down and has temper tantrums and is super whiny. I thought it might be because something was happening at school but when I talked to them they said she’s pretty much perfect. I don’t get it. Why is she so much better behaved at preschool?

Tyler
Minneapolis, Minnesota

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Congratulations, Tyler! Your kid trusts you. Admittedly, the way she’s demonstrating her faith is counterintuitive and incredibly grating, but that’s still a good thing. You should really feel grateful for the meltdowns even if you hate them. How’s that for frustrating feedback? Let me explain.

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Your kid is likely giving her best at preschool, where teachers are attempting to socialize her and prepare her for the big show of Kindergarten. She’s working hard and getting it done. Why is she so good at preschool when she struggles at home? Boundaries and rules at preschool are well defined and the consequences for violations are real and immediate. She apparently responds to that.

I’m sure you’ve been in situations where you’ve had to keep it together and show your best face despite feeling like total shit. Maybe someone made you angry at a work meeting and you had to hold your tongue. Maybe one of your in-laws did something offensive and you couldn’t tear them a new one at the dinner table (or dump a glass of red wine in their lap). It’s no fun and you feel like crap afterward. That is the genre of crap you’re getting at home.

Your daughter is still building the brain structures that help her regulate her emotion. After a long day of keeping herself in check, she needs to blow off some steam. She does that in the safest place she knows: home. Why is she losing it around you? Because she knows that you’re going to love her no matter what. She trusts that while you may get frustrated, you’re not going to disown her or stop loving her. It a sign you’re a good dad that shows his affection. How cool is that?

Sure, it’s a pain in the ass, but luckily you can help her transition home be a bit more mellow. One way to do that is to have some kind of getting home routine or ritual that she knows to expect every day. That could be a happy dance, or a song or a set of activities that mark the change from school to home — we put away our shoes, put up our bag, wash our hands and have a snack. Done consistently and with smiles, it can get the evening off to a better and more certain start and help her feel grounded in her safe place. Which, by the way, you helped create. Good on you, man.

 

Dear Fatherly,

I’m not a fan of fart jokes. I think they are dumb and gross. That said, I have two boys who love farts. I even caught them farting in each other’s faces and laughing like idiots the other day. Why do they think farts are so funny and how can I make them cool it with the farts and fart jokes.

Geoff,
Los Angeles, California

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C’mon, Geoff. Remove the stick from your ass. Farts are clearly funny. Your disdain for farts is ridiculous and your desire to squeeze the obvious fun out of flatulence suggests you’re in danger of raising humorless kids. Don’t be that guy.

Here’s the TL;DR version of my feedback: You can’t decide farts and fart jokes are not funny anymore than you can decide that rocks should float. What you can try to do is place boundaries around your children’s joy. I wouldn’t recommend it, but you can employ a two-fold strategy. First, don’t engage. Disgust is just egging them on. Second, emphasize context. Even though you’re clearly not a fun guy, you must admit that are forums for fart jokes that make sense. Explain this to your boys. Don’t just bark at them and hope things change.

Look. Your boys are interested in farts because farts are interesting. They are figuring out how their bodies work. They are engaging in curiosity and humor and social boundary testing. This is all good stuff. You just have to relax, Geoff. Let it go. Live a little. Fart a little.